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Neurochem Res. 2010 Jul;35(7):1038-49. doi: 10.1007/s11064-010-0152-0. Epub 2010 Mar 23.

Chronic unpredictable stress before pregnancy reduce the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor in hippocampus of offspring rats associated with impairment of memory.

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  • 1The Department of Pediatrics, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Medical College of Shantou University, North Dongxia Road, 515041, Shantou, Guangdong province, China.


To investigate the effect of stress before pregnancy on memory function and serum corticosterone (COR) levels, as well as the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) 2A (NR2A) and 2B (NR2B) receptors in the hippocampus of the offspring rats when they were 2 months postnatally. Adult female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were divided randomly into two groups: control group (n = 8) and chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) group (n = 12). All rats were tested in the open field test and sucrose intake test before and after CUS. The memory function of their offspring were tested in the Morris water maze. Serum COR levels were determined by using a standard radioimmunoassay kit. The expression of BDNF, NR2A and NR2B in the hippocampus of the offspring rats were studied by immunoreactivity quantitative analysis and real-time RT-PCR. (1) Following CUS, reduced open field test activity and decreased sucrose consumption were observed relative to controls. (2) The Morris water maze task demonstrated increased escape latency in the offspring rats of CUS group relative to controls (P < 0.01). No-platform probe testing showed reduced crossings for offspring of CUS relative to controls (P < 0.05). (3) CUS induced a significant increase in serum COR levels of the offspring rats (P < 0.01), but no difference was observed in the body or brain weight between the offspring of the two groups. (4) Immunoreactivity quantitative analysis shows that BDNF and NR2B in the offspring of CUS group was decreased in the CA3 and DG regions of the hippocampus compared to the control group offspring, but NR2A levels were not altered between the offspring of the two groups. (5) Real-time RT-PCR demonstrated that BDNF and NR2B mRNAs were significantly decreased in the offspring of the CUS group compared with the control group (P < 0.01). No significant difference in the levels of NR2A mRNA was detected between offspring of CUS and offspring of control groups. In our study, pregestational stress can increase serum corticosterone levels and reduce the expression of BDNF and NR2B in the hippocampus of offspring. These alterations are associated with impairment of memory in the adult offspring. These data suggest that, stress before pregnancy might have a profound influence on brain development of offspring, that may persist into and be manifested in adulthood.

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