Perinatal Stress Programs Sex Differences in the Behavioral and Molecular Chronobiological Profile of Rats Maintained Under a 12-h Light-Dark Cycle

Sara Morley-Fletcher, Jerome Mairesse, Gilles Van Camp, Marie-Line Reynaert, Eleonora Gatta, Jordan Marrocco, Hammou Bouwalerh, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Stefania Maccari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Stress and the circadian systems play a major role in an organism's adaptation to environmental changes. The adaptive value of the stress system is reactive while that of the circadian system is predictive. Dysfunctions in these two systems may account for many clinically relevant disorders. Despite the evidence that interindividual differences in stress sensitivity and in the functioning of the circadian system are related, there is limited integrated research on these topics. Moreover, sex differences in these systems are poorly investigated. We used the perinatal stress (PRS) rat model, a well-characterized model of maladaptive programming of reactive and predictive adaptation, to monitor the running wheel behavior in male and female adult PRS rats, under a normal light/dark cycle as well as in response to a chronobiological stressor (6-h phase advance/shift). We then analyzed across different time points the expression of genes involved in circadian clocks, stress response, signaling, and glucose metabolism regulation in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). In the unstressed control group, we found a sex-specific profile that was either enhanced or inverted by PRS. Also, PRS disrupted circadian wheel-running behavior by inducing a phase advance in the activity of males and hypoactivity in females and increased vulnerability to chronobiological stress in both sexes. We also observed oscillations of several genes in the SCN of the unstressed group in both sexes. PRS affected males to greater extent than females, with PRS males displaying a pattern similar to unstressed females. Altogether, our findings provide evidence for a specific profile of dysmasculinization induced by PRS at the behavioral and molecular level, thus advocating the necessity to include sex as a biological variable to study the set-up of circadian system in animal models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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