Early emergence of altered 5-HT2A receptor-evoked behavior, neural activation and gene expression following maternal separation

Ankit Sood, Sthitapranjya Pati, Amrita Bhattacharya, Karina Chaudhari, Vidita A. Vaidya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The early stress of Maternal Separation (MS) contributes to the establishment of adult psychopathology. The serotonergic (5-HT) system is implicated during this temporal window in mediating the development of mood-related behaviors. MS is reported to evoke altered 5-HT2A receptor function in adulthood. However, the ontogeny of altered 5-HT2A receptor responsivity following MS remains unknown. Here, we examined 5-HT2A receptor agonist, DOI (1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl)-2-aminopropane) (2 mg/kg) evoked responses, namely stereotypical head-twitch behaviors in control and MS Sprague-Dawley rat pups at postnatal day 21 (P21). MS involved a separation of pups from the dam for 3 h daily from postnatal day 2–14. MS pups at P21 exhibited significantly enhanced head-twitch behaviors compared to controls. Using c-Fos cell counting we examined neural activation in control and MS pups following DOI treatment. MS pups exhibited altered DOI-evoked c-Fos expression within all mPFC subdivisions, but not in the hippocampus, lateral septum and hypothalamus, suggesting differential prefrontal neural activation upon 5-HT2A receptor stimulation following early stress. Gene profiling of 5-HT2A receptor-regulated immediate early genes (IEGs) indicated a decline in the expression of Fos, Fra1 and Egr1 mRNA under baseline conditions in the mPFC of MS pups. MS pups also showed an altered pattern in the regulation of several 5-HT2A receptor-regulated IEGs (Fos, Fra1, Bdnf, Egr1, Egr3) following DOI treatment. Collectively, these results highlight an early emergence of altered 5-HT2A receptor-evoked behavioral responses and neural activation patterns in multiple brain regions in animals with a history of MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a TIFR intramural grant (VAV).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • Early stress
  • Head twitch behavior
  • Immediate early gene
  • Serotonin
  • c-Fos
  • mPFC


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