Age-dependent effect of prenatal stress on hippocampal cell proliferation in female rats

Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Feb;29(3):635-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06608.x.


Stressors occurring during pregnancy can alter the developmental trajectory of offspring and lead to, among other deleterious effects, cognitive deficits and hyperactivity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. A recent feature of the prenatal stress (PS) model is its reported influence on structural plasticity in hippocampal formation, which sustains both cognitive functions and stress responsiveness. Indeed, we and others have previously reported that males exposed to stress in utero are characterized by a decrease in hippocampal cell proliferation, and consequently neurogenesis, from adolescence to senescence. Recent studies in females submitted to PS have reported conflicting results, ranging from no effect to a decrease in cell proliferation. We hypothesized that changes in cell proliferation in PS female rats are age dependent. To address this issue, we examined the impact of PS on hippocampal cell proliferation in juvenile, young, middle-aged and old females. As hypothesized, we found an age-dependent effect of PS in female rats as cell proliferation was significantly decreased only when animals reached senescence, a time when adrenal gland weight also increased. These data suggest that the deleterious effects of PS on hippocampal cell proliferation in females are either specific to senescence or masked during adulthood by protective factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / metabolism
  • Adrenal Glands / growth & development
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cytoprotection / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones