Study Title:

Prenatal stress and peripubertal stimulation of the endocannabinoid system

Study Abstract

The central endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis mediate individual responses to emotionally salient stimuli. Their altered developmental adjustment may relate to the emergence of emotional disturbances. Although environmental influences regulate the individual phenotype throughout the entire lifespan, their effects may result particularly persistent during plastic developmental stages (e.g. prenatal life and adolescence). Here, we investigated whether prenatal stress--in the form of gestational exposure to corticosterone supplemented in the maternal drinking water (100 mg/l) during the last week of pregnancy--combined with a pharmacological stimulation of the ECS during adolescence (daily fatty acid amide hydrolase URB597 i.p. administration--0.4 mg/kg--between postnatal days 29-38), influenced adult mouse emotional behaviour and brain metabolism measured through in vivo quantitative magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Compared to control mice, URB597-treated subjects showed, in the short-term, reduced locomotion and, in the long term, reduced motivation to execute operant responses to obtain palatable rewards paralleled by reduced levels of inositol and taurine in the prefrontal cortex. Adult mice exposed to prenatal corticosterone showed increased behavioural anxiety and reduced locomotion in the elevated zero maze, and altered brain metabolism (increased glutamate and reduced taurine in the hippocampus; reduced inositol and N-Acetyl-Aspartate in the hypothalamus). Present data further corroborate the view that prenatal stress and pharmacological ECS stimulation during adolescence persistently regulate emotional responses in adulthood. Yet, whilst we hypothesized these factors to be interactive in nature, we observed that the consequences of prenatal corticosterone administration were independent from those of ECS drug-induced stimulation during adolescence.

Study Information

Macrì S, Ceci C, Canese R, Laviola G.
Prenatal stress and peripubertal stimulation of the endocannabinoid system differentially regulate emotional responses and brain metabolism in mice.
PLoS One.
2012 January
Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Roma, Italy.

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