Fluoxetine administration to pregnant rats increases anxiety-related behavior in the offspring

J.D. Olivier, A. Valles Sanchez, F. van Heesch, A. Afrasiab-Middelman, J.J.P.M. Roelofs, M. Jonkers, E. J. Peeters, G.A.H. Korte-Bouws, J. P. Dederen, A. J. Kiliaan, GJ. Martens, D. Schubert, J.R. Homberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fluoxetine (ProzacA (R)) is the most frequently prescribed drug to battle depression in pregnant women, but its safety in the unborn child has not yet been established. Fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, crosses the placenta, leading to increased extracellular serotonin levels and potentially neurodevelopmental changes in the fetus. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the long-term consequences of prenatal fluoxetine in rats. Pregnant rats were injected daily with 12 mg/kg fluoxetine or vehicle from gestational day 11 until birth, and the behavior of the offspring was monitored. Plasma fluoxetine transfer from mother to pup was 83%, and high levels of fluoxetine (13.0 mu g/g) were detected in the pup brain 5 h after the last injection. Fluoxetine-treated dams gave birth to litters 15% smaller than usual and to pups of reduced weight (until postnatal day 7). Furthermore, prenatal fluoxetine exposure significantly increased anxiety in the novelty-suppressed feeding test, the footshock-induced conditioned place aversion test, and the elevated plus maze test (following footshock pre-exposure) during adulthood, and also significantly decreased components of social play behavior at 4 weeks of age, and a strong tendency for increased self-grooming and making less contact in adults. Behavioral despair, anhedonia, and sexual behavior were not different between treatment groups. Finally, the hypothermic response to the 5-HT1A agonist flesinoxan was observed at a lower dose in prenatally fluoxetine-exposed rats than in controls. Prenatal fluoxetine exposure in rats leads to detrimental behavioral outcomes in later life, which may partly be due to altered 5-HT1A receptor signaling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-432
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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