Maternal stress programs accelerated aging of the basal ganglia motor system in offspring

J. Marrocco, R. Verhaeghe, D. Bucci, L. Di Menna, A. Traficante, H. Bouwalerh, G. Van Camp, V. Ghiglieri, B. Picconi, P. Calabresi, L. Ravasi, F. Cisani, F. Bagheri, A. Pittaluga, V. Bruno, G. Battaglia, S. Morley-Fletcher, F. Nicoletti, S. Maccari

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Early-life stress involved in the programming of stress-related illnesses can have a toxic influence on the functioning of the nigrostriatal motor system during aging. We examined the effects of perinatal stress (PRS) on the neurochemical, electrophysiological, histological, neuroimaging, and behavioral correlates of striatal motor function in adult (4 months of age) and old (21 months of age) male rats. Adult PRS offspring rats showed reduced dopamine (DA) release in the striatum associated with reductions in tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) cells and DA transporter (DAT) levels, with no loss of striatal dopaminergic terminals as assessed by positron emission tomography analysis with fluorine-18-l-dihydroxyphenylalanine. Striatal levels of DA and its metabolites were increased in PRS rats. In contrast, D2 DA receptor signaling was reduced and A2A adenosine receptor signaling was increased in the striatum of adult PRS rats. This indicated enhanced activity of the indirect pathway of the basal ganglia motor circuit. Adult PRS rats also showed poorer performance in the grip strength test and motor learning tasks. The aged PRS rats also showed a persistent reduction in striatal DA release and defective motor skills in the pasta matrix and ladder rung walking tests. In addition, the old rats showed large increases in the levels of SNAP-25 and synaptophysin, which are synaptic vesicle-related proteins in the striatum, and in the PRS group only, reductions in Syntaxin-1 and Rab3a protein levels were observed. Our findings indicated that the age-dependent threshold for motor dysfunction was lowered in PRS rats. This area of research is underdeveloped, and our study suggests that early-life stress can contribute to an increased understanding of how aging diseases are programmed in early-life.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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