Brain neurotransmitters in an animal model with postpartum depressive-like behavior

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Post-Partum Depression (PPD) occurs in 15% of pregnancies and its patho-physiology is not known. We studied female BALB/c (“depressive”) and C57BL/6 (control) mice as a model for PPD and assessed their behavior and correlates with brain neurotransmitters (NTs) – norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and intermediates, during the pre-pregnancy (PREP), pregnancy (PREG) and post-partum (PP) periods. Depressive-like behavior was evaluated by the Open Field (OFT), Tail Suspension (TST) and Forced Swim (FST) tests. Neurotransmitters (NTs) were determined in the striatum (care-giving), hippocampus (cognitive function) and hypothalamus (maternal care & eating behavior). In the BALB/c mice, while their performance in all behavioral tests was significantly reduced during pregnancy and P-P indicative of the development of depressive-like responses, no changes were observed in the C57BL/6 mice. Changes in NTs in BALB/C were as follows: PREP, all NTs in the three brain areas were decreased, although an increase in dopamine release was observed in the hippocampus. PREG: No changes were observed in the NTs except for a decrease in 5-HT in the striatum. P-P: striatum, low 5-HT, NE and dopamine; Hippocampus: low 5-HT, NE and high Dopamine; hypothalamus: all NTs increased, especially NE. Following pregnancy and delivery, the BALB/c mice developed depressive-like behavior associated with a significant decrease in 5-HT, dopamine and NE in the striatum and 5-HT and NE in the hippocampus. Dopamine increased in the latter together with a significant increase in all NTs in the hypothalamus. These findings suggest that the development of PPD may be associated with NT changes. Normalization of these alterations may have a role in the treatment of PPD.

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