Fluoxetine exposure during pregnancy and lactation: Effects on acute stress response and behavior in the novelty-suppressed feeding are age and gender-dependent in rats

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Abstract

Fluoxetine (FLX) is commonly used to treat anxiety and depressive disorders in pregnant women. Since FLX crosses the placenta and is excreted in milk, maternal treatment with this antidepressant may expose the fetus and neonate to increased levels of serotonin (5-HT). Long-term behavioral abnormalities have been reported in rodents exposed to higher levels of 5-HT during neurodevelopment. In this study we evaluated if maternal exposure to FLX during pregnancy and lactation would result in behavioral and/or stress response disruption in adolescent and adult rats. Our results indicate that exposure to FLX influenced restraint stress-induced Fos expression in the amygdala in a gender and age-specific manner. In male animals, a decreased expression was observed in the basolateral amygdala at adolescence and adulthood; whereas at adulthood, a decrease was also observed in the medial amygdala. A lack of FLX exposure effect was observed in females and also in the paraventricular nucleus of both genders. Regarding the behavioral evaluation, FLX exposure did not induce anhedonia in the sucrose preference test but decreased the latency to feed of both male and female adolescent rats evaluated in the novelty-suppressed feeding test. In conclusion, FLX exposure during pregnancy and lactation decreases acute amygdalar stress response to a psychological stressor in males (adolescents and adults) as well as influences the behavior of adolescents (males and females) in a model that evaluates anxiety and/or depressive-like behavior. Even though FLX seems to be a developmental neurotoxicant, the translation of these findings to human safe assessment remains to be determined since it is recognized that not treating a pregnant or lactating woman may also impact negatively the development of the descendants.

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