Major depression is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the population. In addition to genetic influences, disturbances in fetal nervous system development might be a contributing factor. Maternal infection during pregnancy may affect fetal brain development and consequently lead to neurological and mental disorders. Previously, we used low-dose lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure on embryonic day 10.5 to mimic mild maternal infection in rats and found that dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons were reduced in the offspring. The offspring also showed more anxiety-like behavior and an enhanced stress response. In the present study we used forced swim test and chronic mild stress challenge to assess depression-like behaviors in the affected offspring and examined their adult hippocampal neurogenesis and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) concentration. Our results showed that prenatally LPS-exposed rats (LPS rats) displayed more depression-like behaviors and had reduced adult neurogenesis and BDNF. The behavioral abnormalities and reduction in adult neurogenesis could be reversed by chronic fluoxetine (FLX) treatment. This study demonstrates that during the critical time of embryonic development LPS exposure can produce long-term behavioral changes and reduction in adult neurogenesis. The findings of enhanced depression-like behaviors, reduced adult neurogenesis, and their responsiveness to chronic antidepressant treatment suggest that prenatal LPS exposure could serve as an animal model of depression.
- Adult neurogenesis
- Maternal infection