l-Dopa treatment during perinatal development leads to different behavioral alterations in female vs. male juvenile Swiss mice

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Alterations in dopaminergic signaling and neurodevelopment are associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and schizophrenia. Imbalances in dopamine levels during prenatal development are associated with behavioral alterations later in life, like hyperactivity and addiction, and it is possible that dopaminergic imbalances may have diverse effects during different neurodevelopmental windows. In this study, we investigate whether an increase in dopamine levels during the perinatal developmental window affects behavior of juvenile male and female Swiss mice. In order to do so, we intraperitoneally administered daily doses of l-Dopa to mice pups beginning from postnatal day 1 (PD1) to PD5, which increased the levels of dopamine and its metabolite, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), in the striatum of the pups. At the age of 4 weeks, we submitted the juvenile males and females to the open field test, elevated plus maze, forced swimming test, and sucrose preference test. We observed that increase of dopamine levels during the perinatal developmental window increased exploratory behavior in juvenile females, but not males. We observed no changes in anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. In contrast, we observed that increased dopamine levels during the perinatal period lead to hedonic alterations in juvenile males, but not females. Our results show that dopamine signaling is important for behavioral development and that transient imbalance of dopamine levels causes juvenile behavioral alterations, which are different in males than in females. These data may help in better understanding the spectrum of symptoms associated with different neuropsychiatric disorders.Graphical abstractHighlightsPerinatal l-Dopa treatment increases juvenile females' exploratory behavior.Perinatal l-Dopa treatment impairs juvenile males' hedonic behavior.Perinatal l-Dopa treatment did not affect anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors.

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