Zoological Studies

Vol. 51 No. 1, 2012

Prenatal Ethanol Exposure Increases Depressive-Like Behavior and Central Estrogen Receptor α and Oxytocin Expressions in Adult Female Mandarin Voles

Feng-Qin He1,*, Jie Zhang2, and Xiang Guo1

1Institute of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Life Sciences, Xian Univ. of Arts and Science, Xian 710065, China
2College of Life Sciences, Shaanxi Normal Univ., Xian 710062, China

AbstractFeng-Qin He, Jie Zhang, and Xiang Guo (2012) Prenatal exposure to ethanol is considered to increase risk of depression in offspring. Herein, we tested the effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on adult female mandarin voles (Microtus mandarinus). We verified depression-like behavior of female offspring exposed to ethanol prenatally (exposure group), and control females (control group) during a forced swimming test. For the exposure group, ethanol doses (750 mg/kg body weight in 0.9% saline, 10 ml/kg) were orally administered by clean drinking tubes to 5 pregnant females from day 14 of their pregnancy until postnatal day 0. In the control group, 6 pregnant females received 0.9% saline (10 ml/kg) but no ethanol. At 90 d of age, the exposure and control groups were tested during a forced swimming, and levels of serum estradiol (E2), estrogen receptor alpha-immunoreactive neurons (ERα-IRs) and oxytocinimmunoreactive neurons (OT-IRs) were measured. The exposure group exhibited significantly decreased locomotion and increased immobility during the swim test. The level of serum E2 was higher in the exposure group, and numbers of ERα-IRs in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), medial amygdaloid nucleus (MeA), hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and supraoptic nucleus (SON) in the exposure group were significantly lower. Numbers of OT-IRs in the hypothalamic PVN and SON of the exposure group were lower than those of control animals. Our results suggest that prenatal ethanol exposure may lead to increases in serum E2 levels and decreased ERα and OT in the central nervous system of adults and may be related to the development of depression-like behaviors.

Key words: Prenatal ethanol exposure, Forced swimming test, Estradiol, Estrogen receptor α, Oxytocin.

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