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Life Sci. 2016 May 1;152:171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2016.03.047. Epub 2016 Mar 29.

Increased precipitation of spasms in an animal model of infantile spasms by prenatal stress exposure.

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Department of Pediatrics, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China.
Department of Pediatrics, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China; Center of Epilepsy, Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Beijing 100069, China. Electronic address:
Department of Neurology, Beijing Children's Hospital, The Capital Medical University, Beijing 100000, China.
Department of Pediatrics, Beijing Haidian Hospital, Beijing 100080, China.


Infantile spasms (IS) represent a serious epileptic syndrome, called West syndrome (WS) that occurs in the early infantile age. Although several hypotheses and animal models have been proposed to explain the pathogenesis of IS, the pathophysiology of IS has not been elucidated. Recently, we proposed a hypothesis for IS under prenatal stress exposure (also called Zou's hypothesis) by correlating diverse etiologies and prenatal stresses with IS development. This research aims to determine the mechanism through which prenatal stress affects the offspring and establish the potential underlying mechanisms. Pregnant rats were subjected to forced swimming in cold water. Rat pups exposed to prenatal stress were administered with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). Exposure to prenatal stress sensitized the rats against development of NMDA-induced spasms. However, this phenomenon was altered by administering adrenocorticotropin. Prenatal stress exposure also altered the hormonal levels and neurotransmitter receptor expression of the developing rats as well as influenced the tissue structure of the brain. These findings suggest that maternal stress could alter the level of endogenous glucocorticoid, which is the basis of IS, and cerebral dysplasia, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), inherited metabolic diseases, and other factors activated this disease in developmental brain.


Adrenocorticotropin; Infantile spasms; NMDA; Prenatal stress

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