Prenatal stress-induced increases in placental inflammation and offspring hyperactivity are male-specific and ameliorated by maternal antiinflammatory treatment

Endocrinology. 2014 Jul;155(7):2635-46. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1040. Epub 2014 May 5.


Adverse experiences during gestation such as maternal stress and infection are known risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The mechanisms by which these distinct exposures may confer similar psychiatric vulnerability remain unclear, although likely involve pathways common to both stress and immune responses at the maternal-fetal interface. We hypothesized that maternal stress-induced activation of immune pathways within the placenta, the sex-specific maternal-fetal intermediary, may contribute to prenatal stress programming effects on the offspring. Therefore, we assessed for markers indicative of stress-induced placental inflammation, and examined the ability of maternal nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment to ameliorate placental effects and thereby rescue the stress-dysregulation phenotype observed in our established mouse model of early prenatal stress (EPS). As expected, placental gene expression analyses revealed increased levels of immune response genes, including the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-1β, specifically in male placentas. NSAID treatment partially ameliorated these EPS effects. Similarly, in adult offspring, males displayed stress-induced locomotor hyperactivity, a hallmark of dopaminergic dysregulation, which was ameliorated by maternal NSAID treatment. Fitting with these outcomes and supportive of dopamine pathway involvement, expression of dopamine D1 and D2 receptors was altered by EPS in males. These studies support an important interaction between maternal stress and a proinflammatory state in the long-term programming effects of maternal stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / immunology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / immunology
  • Placenta / drug effects*
  • Placenta / immunology
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / immunology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / immunology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / immunology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase