Supplemental dietary choline during development exerts antidepressant-like effects in adult female rats

Department of Psychology, Colby College, 5550 Mayflower Hill Dr., Waterville, ME 04901, USA.
Brain research (Impact Factor: 2.84). 03/2012; 1443:52-63. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.01.018
Source: PubMed


Perinatal choline supplementation in rats is neuroprotective against insults such as fetal alcohol exposure, seizures, and advanced age. In the present study we explored whether dietary choline supplementation may also confer protection from psychological challenges, like stress, and act as a natural buffer against stress-linked psychological disorders, like depression. We previously found that choline supplementation increased adult hippocampal neurogenesis, a function compromised by stress, lowered in depression, and boosted by antidepressants; and increased levels of growth factors linked to depression, like brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Together, these were compelling reasons to study the role of choline in depressed mood. To do this, we treated rats with a choline supplemented diet (5 mg/kg choline chloride in AIN76A) prenatally on embryonic days 10-22, on postnatal days (PD) 25-50, or as adults from PD75 onward. Outside of these treatment periods rats were fed a standard diet (1.1 mg/kg choline chloride in AIN76A); control rats consumed only this diet throughout the study. Starting on PD100 rats' anxiety-like responses to an open field, learning in a water maze, and reactivity to forced swimming were assessed. Rats given choline supplementation during pre- or post-natal development, but not adult-treated rats, were less anxious in the open field and less immobile in the forced swim test than control rats. These effects were not mediated by a learning deficit as all groups performed comparably and well in the water maze. Thus, we offer compelling support for the hypothesis that supplemental dietary choline, at least when given during development, may inoculate an individual against stress and major psychological disorders, like depression.

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    • "Finally, in normally developing female rats (i.e. not prenatally stressed) prenatal choline supplementation exerts antidepressant-like effects in adulthood [33]. Thus, perinatal choline supplementation enhances many brain and behavioral parameters that are typically compromised by prenatal stress, suggesting perinatal choline may be capable of counteracting the effects of prenatal stress on adult anxiety-related behavior. "
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    ABSTRACT: Brain cholinergic dysfunction is associated with neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Maternal stress exposure is associated with these same illnesses in adult offspring, yet the relationship between prenatal stress and brain cholinergic function is largely unexplored. Thus, using a rodent model, the current study implemented an intervention aimed at buffering the potential effects of prenatal stress on the developing brain cholinergic system. Specifically, control and stressed dams were fed choline-supplemented or control chow during pregnancy and lactation, and the anxiety-related behaviors of adult offspring were assessed in the open field, elevated zero maze and social interaction tests. In the open field test, choline supplementation significantly increased center investigation in both stressed and nonstressed female offspring, suggesting that choline-supplementation decreases female anxiety-related behavior irrespective of prenatal stress exposure. In the elevated zero maze, prenatal stress increased anxiety-related behaviors of female offspring fed a control diet (normal choline levels). However, prenatal stress failed to increase anxiety-related behaviors in female offspring receiving supplemental choline during gestation and lactation, suggesting that dietary choline supplementation ameliorated the effects of prenatal stress on anxiety-related behaviors. For male rats, neither prenatal stress nor diet impacted anxiety-related behaviors in the open field or elevated zero maze. In contrast, perinatal choline supplementation mitigated prenatal stress-induced social behavioral deficits in males, whereas neither prenatal stress nor choline supplementation influenced female social behaviors. Taken together, these data suggest that perinatal choline supplementation ameliorates the sex-specific effects of prenatal stress.
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    ABSTRACT: In the present study, we investigated whether the essential nutrient choline may protect against schizophrenic-like cognitive deficits in a rat model. Theories regarding the etiology of schizophrenia suggest that early life events render an individual more vulnerable to adult challenges, and the combination may precipitate disease onset. To model this, the adult male offspring of dams who either experienced stress during late gestation or did not were given a 5mg/kg dose of the NMDA antagonist, MK-801. The presence of both the prenatal challenge of stress and the adult challenge of MK-801 was expected to impair memory in these offspring. Memory was not expected to be impaired in rats that did not experience prenatal stress, but did receive MK-801 as adults. To study whether choline levels altered outcomes in these groups, rats were fed a choline-supplemented, -deficient, or standard diet during the period between the two challenges: beginning at weaning and continuing for 25days. All rats consumed regular rat chow thereafter. The efficacy of the model was confirmed in the standard fed rats in that only those that were prenatally stressed and received MK-801 as adults displayed impaired memory on a novelty preference test of object recognition. Contrary to this finding and consistent with our hypothesis, choline-supplemented rats that were also both prenatally stressed and given MK-801 as adults showed intact memory. Choline deficiency impaired memory in rats that were just prenatally stressed, just given MK-801 as adults, and subjected to both. Thus, a choline deficient diet may render rats vulnerable to either challenge. Taken together, we offer evidence that developmental choline levels modulate the effects of prenatal stress and/or MK-801 and thereby alter the cognitive outcome in a rat model of schizophrenia.
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