The postnatal period is a critical time window during which inflammatory events have significant and enduring effects on the brain, and as a consequence, induce alterations of emotional behavior and/or cognition later in life. However, the long-term effect of neonatal inflammation on behavior during adolescence, a sensitive period for the development of neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders, has been little studied. In this study, we examined whether an early-life inflammatory challenge could alter emotional behaviors and spatial memory at adolescence and adulthood and whether stress axis activity, inflammatory response and neurogenesis were affected.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 100 μg/kg) was administered to mice on postnatal day (PND) 14 and cytokine expression was measured in the plasma and in brain structures 3 hours later. Anxiety-like and depressive-like behavior (measured in the novelty-suppressed feeding test and the forced swim test, respectively) and spatial memory (Y-maze test) were measured at adolescence (PND30) and adulthood (PND90). Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity (plasma corticosterone and glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex) was measured at adulthood. In addition, the impact of a novel adult LPS challenge (100 μ/kg) was measured on spatial memory (Y-maze test), neurogenesis (doublecortin-positive cell numbers in the hippocampus) and plasma cytokine expression.
First, we show in PND14 pups that a peripheral administration of LPS induced the expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the plasma and brain structures that were studied 3 hours after administration. Anxiety-like behavior was altered in adolescent, but not in adult, mice, whereas depressive-like behavior was spared at adolescence and increased at adulthood. This was accompanied by a decreased phosphorylation of the glucocorticoid receptor in the prefrontal cortex, with no effect on corticosterone levels. Second, neonatal LPS treatment had no effect on spatial memory in adolescence and adulthood. However, a second challenge of LPS in adulthood impaired spatial memory performance and neurogenesis and increased circulating levels of CCL2.
Our study shows for the first time, in mice, that a peripheral LPS treatment at PND14 differentially alters emotional behaviors, but not spatial memory, at adolescence and adulthood. The behavioral effect of LPS at PND14 could be attributed to HPA axis deregulation and neurogenesis impairment.