Dietary prenatal choline supplementation alters postnatal hippocampal structure and function

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Apr;91(4):1545-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.00785.2003. Epub 2003 Nov 26.


Choline, a compound present in many foods, has recently been classified as an essential nutrient for humans. Studies with animal models indicate that the availability of choline during the prenatal period influences neural and cognitive development. Specifically, prenatal choline supplementation has been shown to enhance working memory and hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) in adult offspring. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. Here we report that choline supplementation, during a 6-day gestational period, results in greater excitatory responsiveness, reduced slow afterhyperpolarizations (sAHPs), enhanced afterdepolarizing potentials (ADPs), larger somata, and greater basal dendritic arborization among hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells studied postnatally in juvenile rats (20-25 days of age). These data indicate that dietary supplementation with a single nutrient, choline, during a brief, critical period of prenatal development, alters the structure and function of hippocampal pyramidal cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Choline / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Cells / radiation effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Choline