Early-life iron deficiency anemia alters the development and long-term expression of parvalbumin and perineuronal nets in the rat hippocampus

Liam S.N. Callahan, Kathryn A. Thibert, Jane D. Wobken, Michael K Georgieff

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42 Scopus citations


Early-life iron deficiency anemia (IDA) alters the expression of critical genes involved in neuronal dendritic structural plasticity of the hippocampus, thus contributing to delayed maturation of electrophysiology, and learning and memory behavior in rats. Structural maturity in multiple cortical regions is characterized by the appearance of parvalbumin-positive (PV+) GABAergic interneurons and perineuronal nets (PNNs). Appearance of PV+ interneurons and PNNs can serve as cellular markers for the beginning and end of a critical developmental period, respectively. During this period, the system progresses from an immature yet highly plastic condition, to a more mature and efficient state that is however less flexible and may exhibit poorer potential for recovery from injury. To test if fetal-neonatal IDA alters parvalbumin (PV) mRNA expression, protein levels, and the number of PV+ interneurons and PNNs in the male rat hippocampus, pregnant dams were given an iron-deficient (ID) diet (3 mg iron/kg chow) from gestational day 2 to postnatal day (P) 7 and then placed on an iron-sufficient (IS) diet (198 mg/kg) for the remainder of the experiment. On this regimen, formerly ID animals become fully iron-replete by P56. Minimal levels of PV (mRNA and protein), PV+ interneurons, and PNNs were found in IS and ID P7 rats. By P15, and continuing through P30 and P65, ID rats had reduced PV mRNA expression and protein levels compared to IS controls. While there were no differences in the number of PV+ neurons at either P30 or P65, the percentage of PV+ cells surrounded by PNNs was slightly greater in ID rats as compared to IS controls. The lower levels of these acknowledged critical period biomarkers in the ID group are consistent with studies that demonstrate later maturation of the acutely ID hippocampus and lower plasticity in the adult formerly ID hippocampus. The findings provide additional potential cellular bases for previously described electrophysiologic and behavioral abnormalities found during and following early-life IDA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-436
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Anemia
  • Critical periods
  • Hippocampus
  • Interneurons
  • Iron deficiency
  • Parvalbumin
  • Perineuronal nets


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