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The placenta protects the fetal circulation from anxiety-driven elevations in maternal serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor

Dingsdale, Hayley ORCID:, Nan, Xinsheng ORCID:, Garay, Samantha M., Mueller, Annett, Sumption, Lorna A. ORCID:, Chacon Fernandez, Pedro, Martinez Garay, Isabel ORCID:, Ghevaert, Cedric, Barde, Yves-Alain ORCID: and John, Rosalind M. ORCID: 2021. The placenta protects the fetal circulation from anxiety-driven elevations in maternal serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Translational Psychiatry 11 (1) , 62. 10.1038/s41398-020-01176-8

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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays crucial roles in brain function. Numerous studies report alterations in BDNF levels in human serum in various neurological conditions, including mood disorders such as depression. However, little is known about BDNF levels in the blood during pregnancy. We asked whether maternal depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy were associated with altered serum BDNF levels in mothers (n = 251) and their new-born infants (n = 212). As prenatal exposure to maternal mood disorders significantly increases the risk of neurological conditions in later life, we also examined the possibility of placental BDNF transfer by developing a new mouse model. We found no association between maternal symptoms of depression and either maternal or infant cord blood serum BDNF. However, maternal symptoms of anxiety correlated with significantly raised maternal serum BDNF exclusively in mothers of boys (r = 0.281; P = 0.005; n = 99). Serum BDNF was significantly lower in male infants than female infants but neither correlated with maternal anxiety symptoms. Consistent with this observation, we found no evidence for BDNF transfer across the placenta. We conclude that the placenta protects the developing fetus from maternal changes in serum BDNF that could otherwise have adverse consequences for fetal development.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Additional Information: These authors contributed equally: Hayley Dingsdale, Xinsheng Nan. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: Springer Nature
ISSN: 2158-3188
Funders: MRC, BBSRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 February 2021
Date of Acceptance: 30 November 2020
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2023 18:12

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