Developmental Fluoxetine Exposure Affects Offspring Anxiety-Like Behavior and Hormonal Response to an Acute Stressor

April 2, 2021   /  

Student Name: Bryce Knopp
Major(s): Biology
Advisor(s): Dr. Lynn

A large number of women who suffer from depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period are prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Fluoxetine (Prozac). However, due to Fluoxetine’s ability to cross the placenta and be excreted into milk, maternal treatment with this drug may expose the fetus/offspring to therapeutic levels of Fluoxetine and its metabolites. Physical and behavioral alterations have been reported in offspring exposed to elevated levels of Fluoxetine during early development. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine if Fluoxetine exposure during (1) pregnancy and lactation or (2) only during lactation, affects offspring behavior and physiology. To do this, three groups of Sprague-Dawley rat dams were treated with Fluoxetine (5 mg/kg/day) during pregnancy and throughout lactation, during lactation only, or with regular water. Behavioral testing to examine anxiety-related behaviors of offspring (PND 25-26) was observed on the elevated plus maze and novelty-suppressed feeding test. Blood draws for hormonal analysis were conducted within 48 hours following behavioral testing. Results showed that developmental exposure to Fluoxetine had nuanced effects on anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze but not in the novelty-suppressed feeding test. Data also showed that developmental Fluoxetine exposure decreased serum corticosterone level in response to a stressor in both treatment groups compared to the control. Taken together, these data suggest SSRIs affect the developing HPA system. Given the increasing use of SSRI medication to treat maternal mood disorders, there is need for a more comprehensive understanding of how these medications influence offspring growth and development during specific points of early development.

Bryce will be online to field comments on April 16: 4-6 pm EDT (PST 1pm-3pm, Africa/Europe: late evening)