Early Social Isolation Stress and Perinatal NMDA Receptor Antagonist Treatment Induce Changes in the Structure and Neurochemistry of Inhibitory Neurons of the Adult Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex

eNeuro. 2017 May 1;4(2):ENEURO.0034-17.2017. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0034-17.2017. eCollection 2017 Mar-Apr.


The exposure to aversive experiences during early life influences brain development and leads to altered behavior. Moreover, the combination of these experiences with subtle alterations in neurodevelopment may contribute to the emergence of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. Recent hypotheses suggest that imbalances between excitatory and inhibitory (E/I) neurotransmission, especially in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, may underlie their etiopathology. In order to understand better the neurobiological bases of these alterations, we studied the impact of altered neurodevelopment and chronic early-life stress on these two brain regions. Transgenic mice displaying fluorescent excitatory and inhibitory neurons, received a single injection of MK801 (NMDAR antagonist) or vehicle solution at postnatal day 7 and/or were socially isolated from the age of weaning until adulthood (3 months old). We found that anxiety-related behavior, brain volume, neuronal structure, and the expression of molecules related to plasticity and E/I neurotransmission in adult mice were importantly affected by early-life stress. Interestingly, many of these effects were potentiated when the stress paradigm was applied to mice perinatally injected with MK801 ("double-hit" model). These results clearly show the impact of early-life stress on the adult brain, especially on the structure and plasticity of inhibitory networks, and highlight the double-hit model as a valuable tool to study the contribution of early-life stress in the emergence of neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Keywords: PSA-NCAM; interneuron; neuronal plasticity; schizophrenia; social isolation; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Synaptophysin / metabolism


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Synaptophysin
  • Dizocilpine Maleate