Prenatal lipopolysaccharide induces hypothalamic dopaminergic hypoactivity and autistic-like behaviors: Repetitive self-grooming and stereotypies

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Previous investigations by our group have shown that prenatal exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which mimics infection by gram-negative bacteria, induces social, cognitive, and communication deficits. For a complete screening of autistic-like behaviors, the objective of this study was to evaluate if our rat model also induces restricted and repetitive stereotyped behaviors. Thus, we studied the self-grooming microstructure. We also studied the neurochemistry of hypothalamus and frontal cortex, which are brain areas related to autism to better understand central mechanisms involved in our model. Prenatal LPS exposure on gestational day 9.5 increased the head washing episodes (frequency and time), as well as the total self-grooming. However, body grooming, paw/leg licking, tail/genital grooming, and circling behavior/tail chasing did not vary significantly among the groups. Moreover, prenatal LPS induced dopaminergic hypoactivity (HVA metabolite and turnover) in the hypothalamus. Therefore, our rat model induced restricted and repetitive stereotyped behaviors and the other main symptoms of autism experimentally studied in rodent models and also found in patients. The hypothalamic dopaminergic impairments seem to be associated with the autistic-like behaviors.

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