Rationale: Many depressed women continue antidepressant treatment during pregnancy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment during pregnancy increases the risk for abnormal social development of the child, including increased aggressive or defiant behavior, with unknown effects on sexual behavior. Objectives: Our aim was to investigate the effects of perinatal SSRI treatment and maternal depression, both separately and combined, on aggressive and sexual behavior in male rat offspring. Methods: Heterozygous serotonin transporter (SERT±) knockout dams exposed to early life stress (ELSD) were used as an animal model of maternal depression. Early life stress consisted of separating litters from their mother for 6 h a day on postnatal day (PND)2–15, resulting in a depressive-like phenotype in adulthood. Depressive-like dams were treated with fluoxetine (FLX, 10 mg/kg) or vehicle throughout pregnancy and lactation (gestational day 1 until PND 21). Male offspring were tested for aggressive and sexual behavior in adulthood. As lifelong reductions in SERT expression are known to alter behavioral outcome, offspring with normal (SERT+/+) and reduced (SERT±) SERT expression were assessed. Results: Perinatal FLX treatment reduced offensive behavior and the number of animals attacking and increased the latency to attack, especially in SERT+/+ offspring. Perinatal FLX treatment reduced the mounting frequency in SERT+/+ offspring. ELSD increased offensive behavior, without affecting sexual behavior in SERT± offspring. Conclusions: Overall, our research demonstrates that perinatal FLX treatment and ELSD have opposite effects on aggressive behavior, with little impact on sexual behavior of male offspring.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the NARSAD young investigator grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (Grant No. 25206) and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie (Grant Agreement No. 660152).
- Early life stress
- Serotonin transporter