The effect of maternal genotype, prenatal stress, and perinatal diet in offspring behavior in an animal model of autism
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] While the etiology of autism spectrum disorders is unknown, it is thought that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disorder. In the present study, we aim to assess the role of prenatal stress, stress-susceptible maternal genotype, and perinatal diets varying in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) composition on potential autistic-like behaviors in mice. Pregnant C57BL/6J and serotonin transporter heterozygous dams were subjected to either chronic variable stress or no stress, beginning on gestational day 6 until offspring were born. Each group was further divided into those receiving one of three diets beginning 2 weeks before breeding and lasting until offspring were weaned: control diet, diet low in omega-3 PUFAs, or diet rich in DHA, an omega-3 PUFA. Offspring were tested for differing levels of social communication, social interaction, anxiety, and locomotor functioning. Additionally, brain tissue and plasma were collected for subsequent fatty acid and immune assay analyses. Results indicate offspring exposed to the low omega-3 diet display autistic-like sociability deficits. Similarly, prenatally stressed offspring of stress-susceptible dams displayed autistic-like sociability deficits as well as increased anxiety-like behavior. Interestingly, a diet rich in DHA during the perinatal period ameliorated the sociability deficits in prenatally stressed offspring of stress-susceptible dams. These results suggest that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to an autistic-like phenotype in mice; however, the mechanism of action is yet to be determined.
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