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Neurochem Res. 2013 Jul;38(7):1479-89. doi: 10.1007/s11064-013-1049-5. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Prenatal stress produces social behavior deficits and alters the number of oxytocin and vasopressin neurons in adult rats.

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Programa de Pós-Graduação em Fisiologia, Departamento de Fisiologia, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Sarmento Leite, 500, Porto Alegre, RS, CEP 90050-170, Brazil.


The present study investigated the long-lasting effects of prenatal repeated restraint stress on social behavior and anxiety, as well as its repercussions on oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP)-positive neurons of the paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei from stressed pups in adulthood. Female Wistar rats were exposed to restraint stress in the last 7 days of pregnancy. At birth, pups were cross-fostered and assigned to the following groups: prenatally non-stressed offspring raised by prenatally non-stressed mothers (NS:NS), prenatally non-stressed offspring raised by prenatally stressed mothers (S:NS), prenatally stressed offspring raised by prenatally non-stressed mothers (NS:S), prenatally stressed offspring raised by prenatally stressed mothers (S:S). As adults, male prenatally stressed offspring raised both by stressed mothers (S:S group) and non-stressed ones (NS:S group) showed impaired social memory and interaction. In addition, when both adverse conditions coexisted (S:S group), increased anxiety-like behavior and aggressiveness was observed in association with a decrease in the number of OT-positive magnocellular neurons, VP-positive magnocellular and parvocellular neurons of the PVN. The NS:S group exhibited a reduction in the amount of VP-positive magnocellular neurons compared to the S:NS. Thus, the social behavior deficits observed in the S:S and NS:S groups may be only partially associated with these alterations to the peptidergic systems. No changes were shown in the OT and VP cellular composition of the SON nucleus. Nevertheless, it is clear that a special attention should be given to the gestational period, since stressful events during this time may be related to the emergence of behavioral impairments in adulthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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