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Offspring’s own serotonin transporter genotype, independently from the maternal one, increases anxiety- and depression-like behavior and alters neuroplasticity markers in rats

Publication year 2024
Published in Journal of Affective Disorders
Authors Menghan Sun, Paola Brivio, Ling Shan, Sylvia Docq, Lisa C M W Heltzel, Celine A J Smits, Anthonieke Middelman, Roel Vrooman, Marcia Spoelder, Michel M M Verheij, Jan K Buitelaar, Morgane Boillot, Francesca Calabrese, Judith R Homberg, Sabrina I Hanswijk

INTRODUCTION: Developmental changes due to early life variations in the serotonin system affect stress-related behavior and neuroplasticity in adulthood. These outcomes can be caused both by offspring's own and maternal serotonergic genotype. We aimed to dissociate the contribution of the own genotype from the influences of mother genotype.

METHODS: Sixty-six male homozygous (5-HTT-/-) and heterozygous (5-HTT+/-) serotonin transporter knockout and wild-type rats from constant 5-HTT genotype mothers crossed with varying 5-HTT genotype fathers were subjected to tests assessing anxiety- and depression-like behaviors. Additionally, we measured plasma corticosterone levels and mRNA levels of BDNF, GABA system and HPA-axis components in the prelimbic and infralimbic cortex. Finally, we assessed the effect of paternal 5-HTT genotype on these measurements in 5-HTT+/- offspring receiving their knockout allele from their mother or father.

RESULTS: 5-HTT-/- offspring exhibited increased anxiety- and depression-like behavior in the elevated plus maze and sucrose preference test. Furthermore, Bdnf isoform VI expression was reduced in the prelimbic cortex. Bdnf isoform IV and GABA related gene expression was also altered but did not survive false discovery rate (FDR) correction. Finally, 5-HTT+/- offspring from 5-HTT-/- fathers displayed higher levels of anxiety- and depression-like behavior and changes in GABA, BDNF and HPA-axis related gene expression not surviving FDR correction.

LIMITATIONS: Only male offspring was tested.

CONCLUSIONS: Offspring's own 5-HTT genotype influences stress-related behaviors and Bdnf isoform VI expression, independently of maternal 5-HTT genotype. Paternal 5-HTT genotype separately influenced these outcomes. These findings advance our understanding of the 5-HTT genotype dependent susceptibility to stress-related disorders.

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