Heliyon (2020-08-01)

Repeated maternal separation causes transient reduction in BDNF expression in the medial prefrontal cortex during early brain development, affecting inhibitory neuron development

  • Chiaki Tenkumo,
  • Ken-ichi Ohta,
  • Shingo Suzuki,
  • Katsuhiko Warita,
  • Kanako Irie,
  • Saki Teradaya,
  • Takashi Kusaka,
  • Kenji Kanenishi,
  • Toshiyuki Hata,
  • Takanori Miki

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 8
p. e04781


Read online

It is widely accepted that maternal separation (MS) induces stress in children and disrupts neural circuit formation during early brain development. Even though such disruption occurs transiently early in life, its influence persists after maturation, and could lead to various neurodevelopmental disorders. Our recent study revealed that repeated MS reduces the number of inhibitory neurons and synapses in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and causes mPFC-related social deficits after maturation. However, how MS impedes mPFC development during early brain development remains poorly understood. Here, we focused on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) involved in the development of inhibitory neurons, and examined time-dependent BDNF expression in the mPFC during the pre-weaning period in male rats exposed to MS. Our results show that MS attenuates BDNF expression only around the end of the first postnatal week. Likewise, mRNA expression of activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc), an immediate-early gene whose expression is partly regulated by BDNF, also decreased in the MS group along with the reduction in BDNF expression. On the contrary, mRNA expression of tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB), which is a BDNF receptor, was scarcely altered, while its protein expression decreased in the MS group only during the weaning period. In addition, MS reduced mRNA levels of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) 65, a GABA synthesizing enzyme, only during the weaning period. Our results suggest that repeated MS temporarily attenuates BDNF signaling in the mPFC during early brain development. BDNF plays a crucial role in the development of inhibitory neurons; therefore, transient attenuation of BDNF signaling may cause delays in GABAergic neuron development in the mPFC.