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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 2762518, 13 pages
Research Article

Behavioral Deficits in Juveniles Mediated by Maternal Stress Hormones in Mice

1Department of Neuroscience, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02111, USA
2Departments of Neurology and Physiology, The David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, 635 Charles Young Dr. South, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

Received 18 June 2015; Revised 14 August 2015; Accepted 25 August 2015

Academic Editor: Laura Musazzi

Copyright © 2016 Jamie Maguire and Istvan Mody. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Maternal depression has been shown to negatively impact offspring development. Investigation into the impact of maternal depression and offspring behavior has relied on correlative studies in humans. Further investigation into the underlying mechanisms has been hindered by the lack of useful animal models. We previously characterized a mouse model which exhibits depression-like behaviors restricted to the postpartum period and abnormal/fragmented maternal care (Gabrd−/− mice). Here we utilized this unique mouse model to investigate the mechanism(s) through which maternal depression-like behaviors adversely impact offspring development. Cross-fostering experiments reveal increased anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors in mice reared by Gabrd−/− mothers. Wild type and Gabrd−/− mice subjected to unpredictable stress during late pregnancy exhibit decreased pup survival and depression-like behavior in the postpartum period. Exogenous corticosterone treatment in wild type mice during late pregnancy is sufficient to decrease pup survival and induce anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors in the offspring. Further, the abnormal behaviors in juvenile mice reared by Gabrd−/− mice are alleviated by treatment of the mothers with the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) antagonist, Antalarmin. These studies suggest that hyperresponsiveness of the HPA axis is associated with postpartum depression and may mediate the adverse effects of maternal depression on offspring behavior.