Differential effect of prenatal stress on the expression of corticotrophin-releasing hormone and its receptors in the hypothalamus and amygdala in male and female rats.
ABSTRACT The present study examined the effect of prenatal stress in rats from days 13-20 of gestation on anxiogenic behaviour in the elevated plus maze (EPM) together with changes in the gene expression of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), its receptors, CRHR1 and CRHR2, as well as CRH binding protein (CRH-BP) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and amygdala of their male and female offspring. Both prenatally-stressed (PS) males and females showed heightened anxiety in the EPM. Prenatal stress did not alter the gene expression of CRH or its receptors in the male PVN, although it decreased CRH-BP mRNA, which could augment the activity of free CRH. In the PVN of PS females, there was an increase in the expression of CRH, coupled with a decrease in that of CRHR2 and CRH-BP. These changes are compatible with the greater activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis to stress in females. Anxiogenic behaviour of PS rats was associated with a reduction of CRHR2 mRNA and of CRH-BP mRNA in the amygdala of males and an increase in CRH mRNA and decrease in CRHR2 mRNA in females. Two hours after acute stress of exposure to the elevated plus maze in which heightened anxiety was manifested, increases were seen only in the amygdala of females in CRH and CRHR1 signalling, whereas CRHR2 mRNA was reduced in both sexes. The data show that both prenatal stress and acute stress in adulthood have a differential sex-dependent effect on the expression of CRH its receptors and binding protein in the PVN and amygdala of rats.
Article: Maternal cortisol over the course of pregnancy and subsequent child amygdala and hippocampus volumes and affective problems.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Stress-related variation in the intrauterine milieu may impact brain development and emergent function, with long-term implications in terms of susceptibility for affective disorders. Studies in animals suggest limbic regions in the developing brain are particularly sensitive to exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. However, the nature, magnitude, and time course of these effects have not yet been adequately characterized in humans. A prospective, longitudinal study was conducted in 65 normal, healthy mother-child dyads to examine the association of maternal cortisol in early, mid-, and late gestation with subsequent measures at approximately 7 y age of child amygdala and hippocampus volume and affective problems. After accounting for the effects of potential confounding pre- and postnatal factors, higher maternal cortisol levels in earlier but not later gestation was associated with a larger right amygdala volume in girls (a 1 SD increase in cortisol was associated with a 6.4% increase in right amygdala volume), but not in boys. Moreover, higher maternal cortisol levels in early gestation was associated with more affective problems in girls, and this association was mediated, in part, by amygdala volume. No association between maternal cortisol in pregnancy and child hippocampus volume was observed in either sex. The current findings represent, to the best of our knowledge, the first report linking maternal stress hormone levels in human pregnancy with subsequent child amygdala volume and affect. The results underscore the importance of the intrauterine environment and suggest the origins of neuropsychiatric disorders may have their foundations early in life.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2012; 109(20):E1312-9. · 9.68 Impact Factor