Environmental Enrichment Elicits a Transient Rise of Bioactive C-Type Natriuretic Peptide in Young but Not Aged Rats
Beneficial molecular and neuroplastic changes have been demonstrated in response to environmental enrichment (EE) in laboratory animals across the lifespan. Here, we investigated whether these effects extend to C-type Natriuretic Peptide (CNP), a widely expressed neuropeptide with putative involvement in neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, anxiety, and learning and memory. We determined the CNP response in 36 young (8–9 months) and 36 aged (22–23 months) male PVGc hooded rats that were rehoused with new cage mates in either standard laboratory cages or EE for periods of 14 or 28 days. Tissues were rapidly excised from four brain regions associated with memory formation (dorsal hippocampus, retrosplenial cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and mammillary bodies) plus the occipital cortex and hypothalamus, and immediately frozen. Radioimmunoassay was used to measure bioactive CNP and the amino-terminal fragment of proCNP, NTproCNP. Because CNP but not NTproCNP is rapidly degraded at source, NTproCNP reflects CNP production whereas the ratio NTproCNP:CNP is a biomarker of CNP’s local degradation rate. EE increased CNP at 14 days in all brain regions in young, but not old rats; this effect in young rats was lost at 28 days in all regions of interest. NTproCNP:CNP ratio, but not NTproCNP, was reduced in all regions by EE at 14 days in young rats, but not in old rats, which suggests a period of reduced degradation or receptor mediated clearance, rather than increased production of CNP in these young EE rats. Aged rats tended to show reduced NTproCNP:CNP ratios but this did not occur in dorsal hippocampus or mammillary bodies. This is the first study demonstrating modulation of CNP protein concentrations, and the effect of age, in response to environmental stimulation. Furthermore, it is the first to show that changes in degradation rate in vivo may be an important component in determining CNP bioactivity in neural tissues.