Stress exposure during the preimplantation period affects blastocyst lineages and offspring development

J Reprod Dev. 2015;61(4):325-31. doi: 10.1262/jrd.2015-012. Epub 2015 May 17.


We found retardation of preimplantation embryo growth after exposure to maternal restraint stress during the preimplantation period in our previous study. In the present study, we evaluated the impact of preimplantation maternal restraint stress on the distribution of inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) cells in mouse blastocysts, and its possible effect on physiological development of offspring. We exposed spontaneously ovulating female mice to restraint stress for 30 min three times a day during the preimplantation period, and this treatment caused a significant increase in blood serum corticosterone concentration. Microscopic evaluation of embryos showed that restraint stress significantly decreased cell counts per blastocyst. Comparing the effect of restraint stress on the two blastocyst cell lineages, we found that the reduction in TE cells was more substantial than the reduction in ICM cells, which resulted in an increased ICM/TE ratio in blastocysts isolated from stressed dams compared with controls. Restraint stress reduced the number of implantation sites in uteri, significantly delayed eye opening in delivered mice, and altered their behavior in terms of two parameters (scratching on the base of an open field test apparatus, time spent in central zone) as well. Moreover, prenatally stressed offspring had significantly lower body weights and in 5-week old females delivered from stressed dams, fat deposits were significantly lower. Our results indicate that exposure to stress during very early pregnancy can have a negative impact on embryonic development with consequences reaching into postnatal life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Birth Weight
  • Blastocyst / pathology*
  • Blastocyst Inner Cell Mass / pathology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Embryo Implantation
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / pathology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Weight Gain


  • Corticosterone