Infection during early neonatal period has been shown to cause lasting neurological disabilities and is associated with the subsequent impairment in development of learning and memory ability and anxiety-related behavior in adults. We have previously reported that neonatal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure resulted in cognitive deficits in juvenile rats (P21); thus, the goal of the present study was to determine whether neonatal LPS exposure has long-lasting effects in adult rats. After an LPS (1mg/kg) intracerebral (i.c.) injection in postnatal day 5 (P5) Sprague-Dawley female rat pups, neurobehavioral tests were carried out on P21 and P22, P49 and P50 or P70 and P71 and brain injury was examined at 66days after LPS injection (P71). Our data indicate that neonatal LPS exposure resulted in learning deficits in the passive avoidance task, less anxiety-like (anxiolytic-like) responses in the elevated plus-maze task, reductions in the hippocampal volume and the number of neuron-specific nuclear protein (NeuN)+ cells, as well as axonal injury in the CA1 region of the middle dorsal hippocampus in P71 rats. Neonatal LPS exposure also resulted in sustained inflammatory responses in the P71 rat hippocampus, as indicated by an increased number of activated microglia and elevation of interleukin-1β content in the rat hippocampus. This study reveals that neonatal LPS exposure causes persistent injuries to the hippocampus and results in long-lasting learning disabilities, and these effects are related to the chronic inflammation in the rat hippocampus.
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