Neonatal tryptophan depletion and corticosterone supplementation modify emotional responses in adult male mice

Francesca Zoratto, Marco Fiore, Syed F. Ali, Giovanni Laviola, Simone Macrì

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The serotonergic system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are crucially involved in the regulation of emotions. Specifically, spontaneous and/or environmentally mediated modulations of the functionality of these systems early in development may favour the onset of depressive- and anxiety-related phenotypes. While the independent contribution of each of these systems to the emergence of abnormal phenotypes has been detailed in clinical and experimental studies, only rarely has their interaction been systematically investigated. Here, we addressed the effects of reduced serotonin and environmental stress during the early stages of postnatal life on emotional regulations in mice. To this aim, we administered, to outbred CD1 mouse dams, during their first week of lactation, a tryptophan deficient diet (T) and corticosterone via drinking water (C; 80. μg/ml). Four groups of dams (animal facility rearing, AFR; T treated, T; C treated, C; T and C treated, TC) and their male offspring were used in the study. Maternal care was scored throughout treatment and adult offspring were tested for: anhedonia (progressive ratio schedule); anxiety-related behaviour (approach-avoidance conflict paradigm); BDNF, dopamine and serotonin concentrations in selected brain areas. T, C and TC treatments reduced active maternal care compared to AFR. Adult TC offspring showed significantly increased anxiety- and anhedonia-related behaviours, reduced striatal and increased hypothalamic BDNF and reduced dopamine and serotonin in the prefrontal cortex and their turnover in the hippocampus. Thus, present findings support the view that neonatal variations in the functionality of the serotonergic system and of HPA axis may jointly contribute to induce emotional disturbances in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-39
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013



  • Anhedonia
  • Corticosterone
  • Depression
  • Mouse
  • Tryptophan
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems

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