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Behav Brain Res. 2017 Jun 15;328:39-47. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2017.04.009. Epub 2017 Apr 4.

Maternal hypomagnesemia alters hippocampal NMDAR subunit expression and programs anxiety-like behaviour in adult offspring.

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School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.
University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Electronic address:


It is well established that maternal undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to altered development and behaviour in offspring. However, few studies have explored the implications of maternal Mg deficiency and programmed behavioural and neurological outcomes in offspring. We used a model of Mg deficiency (prior to and during pregnancy and lactation) in CD1 mice to investigate if maternal Mg deficiency programmed changes in behaviour and NMDAR subunit expression in offspring. Hippocampal tissue was collected at postnatal day 2 (PN2), PN8, PN21 and 6 months, and protein expression of NMDAR subunits GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B was determined. At 6 months of age, offspring were subject to behavioural tasks testing aspects of anxiety-like behaviour, memory, and neophobia. Maternal hypomagnesemia was associated with increased GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B subunit expression in female offspring at 6 months, but decreased GluN1 and GluN2A expression in males. The GluN2B:GluN2A expression ratio was increased in both sexes. Male (but not female) offspring from Mg-deficient dams showed anxiety-like behaviour, with reduced head dips (Suok test), and reduced exploration of open arms (elevated plus maze). Both male and female offspring from Mg-deficient dams also showed impaired recognition memory (novel object test). These findings suggest that maternal Mg deficiency can result in behavioural deficits in adult life, and that these changes may be related to alterations in hippocampal NMDA receptor expression.


Anxiety; Developmental programming; Fetal programming; Hypomagnesemia; Magnesium deficiency; NMDA receptor

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