Perinatal programming of depressive-like behavior by inflammation in adult offspring mice whose mothers were fed polluted eels: Gender selective effects

Nidhal Soualeh, Imen Dridi, Gauthier Eppe, Christophe Némos, Rachid Soulimani, Jaouad Bouayed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Several lines of evidence indicate that early-life inflammation may predispose to mental illness, including depression, in later-life. We investigated the impact of perinatal exposure to polluted eels on neonatal, postnatal, and adult brain inflammation, and on the resignation behavior of male and female adult offspring mice. The effects of maternal standard diet (laboratory food) were compared to the same diet enriched with low, intermediate, or highly polluted eels. Brain inflammatory markers including cytokines were assessed in offspring mice on the day of birth (i.e., on the postnatal day–PND 1), upon weaning (PND 21) and at adulthood (PND 100). Plasma myeloperoxidase and corticosterone levels were evaluated at PND 100. Immobility behavior of offspring was assessed in adulthood (i.e., at PNDs 95–100), using the tail suspension and forced swimming tests. Chronic brain inflammation was found in male and female offspring mice compared to controls, as assessed at PNDs 1, 21, and 100. The level of myeloperoxidase was found to be significantly higher in both adult males and females vs. control offspring. However, high corticosterone levels were only found in male offspring mice that were perinatally exposed to eels, suggesting a gender-selective dysregulation of the adult hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal (HPA) axis. Gender-specific differences were also detected in adulthood in regard to offspring resignation behavior. Thus, compared to controls, males, but not females, whose mothers were fed eels during pregnancy and lactation exhibited a depressive-like behavior in adult age in both behavioral models of depression. Depressive symptoms were more pronounced in male mice perinatally exposed to either intermediate or highly polluted eels than those exposed to only lowly polluted eels. Our results indicate that early-life inflammatory insult is a plausible causative factor that induces the depressive phenotype exhibited by male adult offspring mice, most likely through a gender-specific HPA axis enhanced activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Depressive-like behavior
  • Early-life exposure
  • HPA axis
  • Inflammation
  • Later-life
  • Maternal diet
  • Polluted eels


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