Father Absence in the Monogamous California Mouse Impairs Social Behavior and Modifies Dopamine and Glutamate Synapses in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex

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Abstract

The role of the father in psycho-affective development is indispensable. Yet, the neurobehavioral effects of paternal deprivation (PD) are poorly understood. Here, we examined the behavioral consequences of PD in the California mouse, a species displaying monogamous bonding and biparental care, and assessed its impact on dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT), and glutamate (GLU) transmission in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). In adult males, deficits in social interaction were observed, when a father-deprived (PD) mouse was matched with a PD partner. In adult females, deficits were observed when matching a PD animal with a non-PD control, and when matching 2 PD animals. PD also increased aggression in females. Behavioral abnormalities in PD females were associated with a sensitized response to the locomotor-activating effect of amphetamine. Following immunocytochemical demonstration of DA, 5-HT, and GLU innervations in the mPFC, we employed in vivo electrophysiology and microiontophoresis, and found that PD attenuated the basal activity of low-spiking pyramidal neurons in females. PD decreased pyramidal responses to DA in females, while enhancing responses to NMDA in both sexes. We thus demonstrate that, during critical neurodevelopmental periods, PD leads to sex-dependent abnormalities in social and reward-related behaviors that are associated with disturbances in cortical DA and GLU neurotransmission.

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