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Maternal antioxidant treatment prevents the adverse effects of prenatal stress on the offspring's brain and behavior

Scott, H. ORCID:, Phillips, T.J., Sze, Y., Alfieri, A., Rogers, M.F., Volpato, V., Case, C.P. and Brunton, P.J. 2020. Maternal antioxidant treatment prevents the adverse effects of prenatal stress on the offspring's brain and behavior. Neurobiology of Stress 13 , 100281. 10.1016/j.ynstr.2020.100281

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Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders in the offspring in later life. The mechanisms through which the effects of maternal stress are transmitted to the fetus are unclear, however the placenta, as the interface between mother and fetus, is likely to play a key role. Using a rat model, we investigated a role for placental oxidative stress in conveying the effects of maternal social stress to the fetus and the potential for treatment using a nanoparticle-bound antioxidant to prevent adverse outcomes in the offspring. Maternal psychosocial stress increased circulating corticosterone in the mother, but not in the fetuses. Maternal stress also induced oxidative stress in the placenta, but not in the fetal brain. Blocking oxidative stress using an antioxidant prevented the prenatal stress-induced anxiety phenotype in the male offspring, and prevented sex-specific neurobiological changes, specifically a reduction in dendrite lengths in the hippocampus, as well as reductions in the number of parvalbumin-positive neurons and GABA receptor subunits in the hippocampus and basolateral amygdala of the male offspring. Importantly, many of these effects were mimicked in neuronal cultures by application of placental-conditioned medium or fetal plasma from stressed pregnancies, indicating molecules released from the placenta may mediate the effects of prenatal stress on the fetal brain. Indeed, both placenta-conditioned medium and fetal plasma contained differentially abundant microRNAs following maternal stress, and their predicted targets were enriched for genes relevant to nervous system development and psychiatric disorders. The results highlight placental oxidative stress as a key mediator in transmitting the maternal social stress effects on the offspring's brain and behavior, and offer a potential intervention to prevent stress-induced fetal programming of affective disorders.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Additional Information: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 2352-2895
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 January 2021
Date of Acceptance: 24 November 2020
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 11:54

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