In social animals, the behavioral and hormonal responses to stress can be transmitted from one individual to another through a social transmission process, and, conversely, social support ameliorates stress responses, a phenomenon referred to as social buffering. Metaplasticity represents activity-dependent synaptic changes that modulate the ability to elicit subsequent synaptic plasticity. Authentic stress can induce hippocampal metaplasticity, but whether transmitted stress has the same ability remains unknown. Here, using an acute restraint–tailshock stress paradigm, we report that both authentic and transmitted stress in adult male mice trigger metaplastic facilitation of long-term depression (LTD) induction at hippocampal CA1 synapses. Using LTD as a readout of persistent synaptic consequences of stress, our findings demonstrate that, in a male–male dyad, stress transmission happens in nearly half of naive partners and stress buffering occurs in approximately half of male stressed mice that closely interact with naive partners. By using a social-confrontation tube test to assess the dominant–subordinate relationship in a male–male dyad, we found that stressed subordinate mice are not buffered by naive dominant partners and that stress transmission is exhibited in;60% of dominant naive partners. Furthermore, the appearance of stress transmission correlates with more time spent in sniffing the anogenital area of stressed mice, and the appearance of stress buffering correlates with more time engaged in allogrooming from naive partners. Chemical ablation of the olfactory epithelium with dichlobenil or physical separation between social contacts diminishes stress transmission. Together, our data demonstrate that transmitted stress can elicit metaplastic facilitation of LTD induction as authentic stress.
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