Few long-term consequences after prolonged maternal separation in female Wistar rats

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Environmental factors during the early-life period are known to have long-term consequences for the adult phenotype. An intimate interplay between genes and environment shape the individual and may affect vulnerability for psychopathology in a sex-dependent manner. A rodent maternal separation model was here used to study the long-term effects of different early-life rearing conditions on adult behavior, HPA axis activity and long-term voluntary alcohol intake in female rats. Litters were subjected to 15 min (MS15) or 360 min (MS360) of daily maternal separation during postnatal day 1-21. In adulthood, the behavioral profiles were investigated using the multivariate concentric square field™ (MCSF) test or examined for HPA axis reactivity by cat-odor exposure with subsequent characterization of voluntary alcohol intake and associated changes in HPA axis activity. Adult female MS360 offspring showed mostly no, or only minor, effects on behavior, HPA axis reactivity and long-term alcohol intake relative to MS15. Instead, more pronounced effects were found dependent on changes in the natural hormonal cycle or by the choice of animal supplier. However, changes were revealed in corticosterone load after long-term alcohol access, as females subjected to MS360 had higher concentrations of fecal corticosterone. The present findings are in line with and expand on previous studies on the long-term effects of maternal separation in female rats with regard to behavior, HPA axis activity and voluntary alcohol intake. It can also be a window into further studies detailing how early-life experiences interact with other risk and protective factors to impact the adult phenotype and how possible sex differences play a role.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0190042
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1-22
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Adrenal Glands/physiology, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Female, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Male, Maternal Deprivation, Pregnancy, Rats, Wistar

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ID: 191675420