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Neuron. 2008 Jul 31;59(2):207-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.06.019.

GABA(A)R plasticity during pregnancy: relevance to postpartum depression.

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Department of Neurology, The David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Fluctuating neurosteroid levels over the ovarian cycle modulate neuronal excitability through effects on GABA(A) receptors (GABA(A)Rs). The large increase in progesterone-derived neurosteroids during pregnancy and their precipitous decline at parturition may have considerable effects on GABA(A)Rs during pregnancy and postpartum. Here we show a significant decrease in tonic and phasic inhibitions in pregnant mice, mediated by a downregulation of GABA(A)R delta and gamma2 subunits, respectively, which rebounds immediately postpartum. Mice which do not exhibit GABA(A)R delta subunit regulation throughout pregnancy (Gabrd(+/-) and Gabrd(-/-)) exhibit depression-like and abnormal maternal behaviors, resulting in reduced pup survival. These abnormal postpartum behaviors were ameliorated in Gabrd(+/-) mice by a GABA(A)R delta-subunit-selective agonist, THIP. We suggest that Gabrd(+/-) and Gabrd(-/-) mice constitute a mouse model of postpartum depression that may be useful for evaluating potential therapeutic interventions.

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