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Horm Behav. 2016 Aug;84:41-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.06.001. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Prenatal SSRI alters the hormonal and behavioral responses to stress in female mice: Possible role for glucocorticoid resistance.

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School of Behavioral Sciences, The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Tel Aviv, Israel. Electronic address:
School of Behavioral Sciences, The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Life time prevalence of major depression disorder (MDD) is higher in women compared to men especially during the period surrounding childbirth. Women suffering from MDD during pregnancy use antidepressant medications, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). These drugs readily cross the placental barrier and impact the developing fetal brain. The present study assessed the effects of prenatal exposure to fluoxetine (FLX), an SSRI antidepressant drug, on corticosterone and behavioral responses to stress in female mice. In young females, prenatal FLX significantly elevated corticosterone response to continuous stress. In adults, prenatal FLX augmented corticosterone response to acute stress and suppressed the response to continuous stress. Additionally, prenatal FLX significantly augmented stress-induced increase in locomotion and reduced anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors in adult, but not young mice. The dexamethasone suppression test revealed that prenatal FLX induced a state of glucocorticoid resistance in adult females, indicating that the negative feedback control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress was disrupted. These findings provide the first indication of altered hormonal and behavioral responses to continuous stress and suggest a role for the development of glucocorticoid resistance in these effects. According to these findings, prenatal environment may have implications for stress sensitivity and responsiveness to life challenges. Furthermore, this study may assist in understanding the limitations and precautions that should be taken in the use of SSRIs during pregnancy.


Fluoxetine; Glucocorticoid resistance; HPA axis; Major depression disorder; Restraint stress; SSRI

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