Injections to pregnant mice produce prenatal stress that affects aggressive behavior in their adult male offspring

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Monika Ogrizek, Neža Grgurevič, Tomaž Snoj, Gregor Majdič
Hormones and Behavior
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Maternal stress could reprogram the developing fetal nervous system. A common target of maternal glucocorticoids is fetal neuro-endocrine axis. In the present study, pregnant mice were exposed to stress by injection and their male offspring were tested for sexual and aggressive behaviors in adult life. Three groups of pregnant mice were exposed to stress by sham syringe injection. The first group was injected on days 13, 14, and 15 p.c., the second group was injected on days 17 and 18 p.c., and the third group was injected daily from days 13 to 18 p.c. while control mice were not injected. Male offspring that were exposed to stress on days 13–18 p.c. and 17–18 p.c. were less aggressive and had lower blood testosterone levels in comparison to the control group. In male sexual behavior, there were no statistically significant differences between the groups. Body weight differed significantly with groups injected on days 13–18 p.c. and 13–15 p.c. having significantly higher body weight in adult life than the other two groups. After behavioral testing, brains were processed for immunohistochemical staining with antibodies against vasopressin (AVP) and calbindin (CALB). The expression of AVP and CALB in the lateral septum and in the preoptic area, respectively, did not differ between groups, suggesting that these two masculinization markers were not affected by prenatal stress. Present study therefore shows that even presumably mild and short prenatal stress weakens aggressive behavior of adult male mice, possibly due to reduced testosterone levels in blood.


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