Neurochemical Research

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 1479–1489 | Cite as

Prenatal Stress Produces Social Behavior Deficits and Alters the Number of Oxytocin and Vasopressin Neurons in Adult Rats

  • Marcelo Alves de Souza
  • Lígia Aline Centenaro
  • Pâmela Rossi Menegotto
  • Thiago Pereira Henriques
  • Juliana Bonini
  • Matilde Achaval
  • Aldo Bolten Lucion
Original Paper


The present study investigated the long-lasting effects of prenatal repeated restraint stress on social behavior and anxiety, as well as its repercussions on oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP)-positive neurons of the paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei from stressed pups in adulthood. Female Wistar rats were exposed to restraint stress in the last 7 days of pregnancy. At birth, pups were cross-fostered and assigned to the following groups: prenatally non-stressed offspring raised by prenatally non-stressed mothers (NS:NS), prenatally non-stressed offspring raised by prenatally stressed mothers (S:NS), prenatally stressed offspring raised by prenatally non-stressed mothers (NS:S), prenatally stressed offspring raised by prenatally stressed mothers (S:S). As adults, male prenatally stressed offspring raised both by stressed mothers (S:S group) and non-stressed ones (NS:S group) showed impaired social memory and interaction. In addition, when both adverse conditions coexisted (S:S group), increased anxiety-like behavior and aggressiveness was observed in association with a decrease in the number of OT-positive magnocellular neurons, VP-positive magnocellular and parvocellular neurons of the PVN. The NS:S group exhibited a reduction in the amount of VP-positive magnocellular neurons compared to the S:NS. Thus, the social behavior deficits observed in the S:S and NS:S groups may be only partially associated with these alterations to the peptidergic systems. No changes were shown in the OT and VP cellular composition of the SON nucleus. Nevertheless, it is clear that a special attention should be given to the gestational period, since stressful events during this time may be related to the emergence of behavioral impairments in adulthood.


Prenatal stress Cross-fostering Social memory Social interaction Oxytocin Vasopressin 



This study was supported by grants from CNPq, FAPESP, FAPERGS and CAPES.

Conflict of interest

There was no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelo Alves de Souza
    • 1
    • 4
  • Lígia Aline Centenaro
    • 2
    • 4
  • Pâmela Rossi Menegotto
    • 1
  • Thiago Pereira Henriques
    • 1
  • Juliana Bonini
    • 3
  • Matilde Achaval
    • 2
  • Aldo Bolten Lucion
    • 1
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Fisiologia, Departamento de Fisiologia, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da SaúdeUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Neurociências, Departamento de Ciências Morfológicas, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da SaúdeUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de FarmáciaUniversidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste do ParanáGuarapuavaBrazil
  4. 4.Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da SaúdeUniversidade Estadual do Oeste do ParanáCascavelBrazil

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