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Physiol Behav. 2014 Apr 10;128:260-9. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.01.036. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Effects of developmental hyperserotonemia on juvenile play behavior, oxytocin and serotonin receptor expression in the hypothalamus are age and sex dependent.

Author information

1
Graduate Program in Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA; Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA.
2
Graduate Program in Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA; Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA. Electronic address: susan.zup@umb.edu.

Abstract

There is a striking sex difference in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), such that males are diagnosed more often than females, usually in early childhood. Given that recent research has implicated elevated blood serotonin (hyperserotonemia) in perinatal development as a potential factor in the pathogenesis of ASD, we sought to evaluate the effects of developmental hyperserotonemia on social behavior and relevant brain morphology in juvenile males and females. Administration of 5-methoxytryptamine (5-MT) both pre- and postnatally was found to disrupt normal social play behavior in juveniles. In addition, alterations in the number of oxytocinergic cells in the lateral and medial paraventricular nucleus (PVN) were evident on postnatal day 18 (PND18) in 5-MT treated females, but not treated males. 5-MT treatment also changed the relative expression of 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2A) receptors in the PVN, in males at PND10 and in females at PND18. These data suggest that serotonin plays an organizing role in the development of the PVN in a sexually dimorphic fashion, and that elevated serotonin levels during perinatal development may disrupt normal organization, leading to neurochemical and behavioral changes. Importantly, these data also suggest that the inclusion of both juvenile males and females in studies will be necessary to fully understand the role of serotonin in development, especially in relation to ASD.

KEYWORDS:

Autism; Hypothalamus; Juvenile play behavior; Oxytocin; Serotonin receptor; Sex difference

PMID:
24530263
DOI:
10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.01.036
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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