Perinatal fluoxetine exposure changes social and stress-coping behavior in adult rats housed in a seminatural environment
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The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during pregnancy has increased tremendously, but the consequences for the offspring remain largely unclear. Several studies have described potential effects of perinatal SSRI-exposure on neurobehavioral outcomes using simplified rodent test set-ups, however these set-ups only assess a small fraction of the behavior. For translational purposes it is important to take the environmental influences into account which children are exposed to in real life. By using a seminatural environmental set-up, this study is the first to assess behavioral outcomes in offspring exposed to perinatal SSRI exposure under seminatural circumstances. Mothers received daily the SSRI fluoxetine (FLX, 10 mg/kg p.o.) or vehicle (CTR) from gestational day 1 until postnatal day 21. To assess the effect of FLX exposure during early development, female and male offspring were behaviorally tested in the seminatural environment at adulthood. Baseline behavior was measured in addition to responses during and after stressful white-noise events. Behavior was observed on two days, day 4 on which females were sexually non-receptive, and day 7, on which females were sexual receptive. Perinatal FLX exposure reduced general activity in females and increased behavior related to a social context in both males and females. After a stressful white-noise event some behaviors switched. Whereas FLX-females switch from resting socially to resting more solitarily, FLX-males show an increase in self-grooming behavior after the stressor and showed more freezing behavior in the open area. We conclude that perinatal FLX exposure leads to alterations in social and stress-coping behaviors in adulthood, when observed in a seminatural environment. Whether these adaptations in behavior are advantageous or disadvantageous remains to be established.