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Keywords:

  • prenatal stress;
  • animal model of depression;
  • prepubertal rats;
  • sex differences;
  • anxiety

Abstract

Behavioral effects of different prenatal stress (PNS) schedules were examined in prepubertal “depressive/anxious-like” WKY and control Wistar rats. Pregnant dams received 1 hr daily restraint stress on gestational days 14–20 or on 7 randomly scheduled days, or remained undisturbed. Offspring were tested during postnatal days 29–35 in social play, forced swim-test, open field, and novelty tests. PNS induced an increase in anxiety-like behaviors in WKY, particularly in females, while seemingly reducing depressive-like behavior in the swim test. However, very high post-stress corticosterone levels were found, suggesting that the reductions in swim-test immobility reflect an extremely over-responsive HPA axis, rather than normalization in stress reactivity leading to a less depressive-like profile. In Wistar, PNS produced weight loss, hyperactivity and risk taking behavior, especially in males. The results support the importance of the environment during gestation and its interaction with sex and genetics on long-term anxiety and depressive like behaviors. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 55: 176–192, 2013