Early physical and motor development of mouse offspring exposed to valproic acid throughout intrauterine development

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Clinical research has identified developmental delay and physical malformations in children prenatally exposed to the antiepileptic drug (AED) valproic acid (VPA). However, the early signs of neurodevelopmental deficits, their evolution during postnatal development and growth, and the dose effects of VPA are not well understood. The present study aimed to examine the influence of maternal exposure to a wide dose range (50, 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg/day) of VPA during breeding and gestation on early physical and neuromotor development in mice offspring. Body weight gain, eye opening, the surface righting reflex (SRR) and tail suspension test (TST) were examined in the offspring at postnatal days 5, 10 and 15. We observed that: (1) all tested doses of VPA reduced the body weight of the offspring and the timing of eye opening; (2) offspring exposed to VPA displayed immature forms of righting and required more time to complete the SRR; (3) latency for the first immobilization in the TST is shorter in offspring exposed to higher doses of VPA; however, mice in all groups exposed to VPA exhibited atypical changes in this parameter during the examined period of maturation; (4) irregularities in swinging and curling activities were observed in animals exposed to higher doses of VPA. This study points to delayed somatic development and postponed maturation of the motor system in all of the offspring prenatally exposed to VPA, with stronger effects observed at higher doses. The results implicate that the strategy of continuous monitoring of general health and achievements in motor milestones during the early postnatal development in prenatally VPA-exposed offspring, irrespectively of the dose applied, could help to recognize early developmental irregularities.

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