Developmental exposure to SSRIs, in addition to maternal stress, has long-term sex-dependent effects on hippocampal plasticity

Ine Rayen, Mary Gemmel, Grace Pauley, Harry W. M. Steinbusch, Jodi L. Pawluski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Web of Science)


During pregnancy and postpartum period, 20 % of women are affected by depression, which is a growing health concern. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are popular treatments for maternal depression; however, the effect of maternal depression and perinatal SSRI exposure on offspring's neural development needs further investigation. This study aims to determine the role of developmental fluoxetine exposure on hippocampal plasticity in the adult offspring. Sprague-Dawley rat offspring were exposed to fluoxetine beginning on postnatal day 1. Offspring were also exposed to prenatal maternal stress. Four groups of male and female offspring were used: (1) prenatal stress + fluoxetine, (2) prenatal stress + vehicle, (3) fluoxetine alone, and (4) vehicle alone. Hippocampi were analyzed for levels of cell proliferation, immature neurons, and new cell survival (3 weeks after 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine injection) in the granule cell layer, as well as synaptophysin density in the CA3 region and granule cell layer. TPH staining was assessed in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Developmental fluoxetine exposure to prenatally stressed offspring reversed the effect of prenatal stress or fluoxetine exposure alone on the number of immature neurons. Prenatal stress alone, regardless of developmental exposure to fluoxetine, markedly decreased hippocampal cell proliferation and tended to decrease new cell survival. Furthermore, in adult female offspring, developmental fluoxetine exposure greatly increased new cell survival and significantly decreased synaptophysin density in the granule cell layer. There are long-term effects of developmental SSRI exposure on hippocampal plasticity that is differentially affected by expose to maternal adversity and offspring sex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1244
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Fluoxetine
  • Antidepressants
  • BrdU
  • Ki67
  • Doublecortin
  • Raphe nucleus
  • Synaptophysin
  • Sex differences
  • Neurogenesis
  • Prenatal stress

Cite this