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Brain Res. 2007 May 7;1148:226-33. Epub 2007 Feb 24.

Stress-induced changes in extracellular dopamine and serotonin in the medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal hippocampus of prenatally malnourished rats.

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  • 1Center for Behavioral Development and Mental Retardation, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA. <>


Prenatal protein malnutrition continues to be a significant problem in the world today. Exposure to prenatal protein malnutrition increases the risk of a number of neuropsychiatric disorders in adulthood including depression, schizophrenia and attentional deficit disorder. In the present experiment, we have examined the effects of stress on extracellular serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine in the medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal hippocampus of rats exposed in utero to protein malnutrition. The medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal hippocampus were chosen as two limbic forebrain regions involved in learning and memory, attention and the stress response. Extracellular 5-HT and dopamine were determined in the medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal hippocampus of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats using dual probe in vivo microdialysis. Basal extracellular 5-HT did not differ between malnourished and well-nourished controls in either the medial prefrontal cortex or the dorsal hippocampus. Basal extracellular dopamine was significantly decreased in the medial prefrontal cortex of malnourished animals. Restraint stress (20 m) produced a significant rise in extracellular dopamine in the medial prefrontal cortex of well-nourished rats but did not alter release in malnourished rats. In malnourished rats, stress produced an increase in 5-HT in the hippocampus, whereas stress produced a decrease in 5-HT in the hippocampus of well-nourished rats. These data demonstrate that prenatal protein malnutrition alters dopaminergic neurotransmission in the medial prefrontal cortex as well as alters the dopaminergic and serotonergic response to stress. These changes may provide part of the bases for alterations in malnourished animals' response to stress.

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