Maternal Stress Affects Fetal Development and Learning/Memory in Adult Offspring

Volume 1
Issue 1
Dongho Geum, Chang-Jeong Lee, & Kyungjin Kim
It has been well known that stress exerts profound influences on physiological and behavioral consequences in later life. It remains, however, unknown whether maternal stress may affect fetal development and brain functions of adult offspring that was born from stressed mother and reared in a normal environment. In the present study, we showed that maternal stress increased fetal abortion rate up to 30%, decreased body weights of fetuses and neonates, and delayed fetal limb and somite development. Adult mice born from stressed mother have reduction in N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor mediated hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) induced by tetanic stimulation with high frequency (100 Hz) or tetraethylammonium (TEA). They also showed impairment in NMDA receptor mediated excitatory post-synaptic current (EPSC) determined by whole cell patch clamp recording. Morris water maze test and passive fear avoidance test indicated that spatial learning and memory and fear avoid response were impaired in maternally stressed adult offspring even when they were grown in a normal environment. These results suggest that maternal stress reprograms the fetal development and leads to irreversible malfunctions of the brain even in adulthood.
Key words: Maternal stress, Fetal development, Long-term potentiation, Excitatoη post-synaptic current, Morris water maze test, Fear avoidance test