Background: Gestational iron deficiency in humans and rodents produces long-term deficits in cognitive and socioemotional function and alters expression of plasticity genes in the hippocampus that persist despite iron treatment. Prenatal choline supplementation improves cognitive function in other rodent models of developmental insults. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine whether prenatal choline supplementation prevents the long-term effects of fetal-neonatal iron deficiency on cognitive and social behaviors and hippocampal gene expression. Methods: Pregnant rat dams were administered an iron-deficient (2-6 g/kg iron) or iron-sufficient (IS) (200 g/kg iron) diet from embryonic day (E) 3 to postnatal day (P) 7 with or without choline supplementation (5 g/kg choline chloride, E11-18). Novel object recognition (NOR) in the test vs. acquisition phase, social approach (SA), and hippocampal mRNA expression were compared at P65 in 4 male adult offspring groups: formerly iron deficient (FID), FID with choline supplementation (FID-C), IS, and IS with choline supplementation. Results: Relative to the intact NOR in IS rats (acquisition: 47.9%, test: 60.2%, P < 0.005), FID adult rats had impaired recognition memory at the 6-h delay (acquisition: 51.4%, test: 55.1%, NS), accompanied by a 15% reduction in hippocampal expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) (P < 0.05) and myelin basic protein (Mbp) (P < 0.05). Prenatal choline supplementation in FID rats restored NOR (acquisition: 48.8%, test: 64.4%, P < 0.0005) and increased hippocampal gene expression (FID-C vs. FID group: Bdnf, Mbp, P < 0.01). SA was also reduced in FID rats (P < 0.05 vs. IS rats) but was only marginally improved by prenatal choline supplementation. Conclusions: Deficits in recognition memory, but not social behavior, resulting from gestational iron deficiency are attenuated by prenatal choline supplementation, potentially through preservation of hippocampal Bdnf and Mbp expression. Prenatal choline supplementation may be a promising adjunct treatment for fetal-neonatal iron deficiency.
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© 2014 American Society for Nutrition.