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Early life stress in fathers improves behavioural flexibility in their offspring


Gapp, Katharina; Soldado-Magraner, Saray; Alvarez-Sánchez, Maria; Bohacek, Johannes; Vernaz, Grégoire; Shu, Huan; Franklin, Tamara B; Wolfer, David; Mansuy, Isabelle M (2014). Early life stress in fathers improves behavioural flexibility in their offspring. Nature Communications, 5:5466-5473.

Abstract

Traumatic experiences in childhood can alter behavioural responses and increase the risk for psychopathologies across life, not only in the exposed individuals but also in their progeny. In some conditions, such experiences can however be beneficial and facilitate the appraisal of adverse environments later in life. Here we expose newborn mice to unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress (MSUS) for 2 weeks and assess the impact on behaviour in the offspring when adult. We show that MSUS in male mice favours goal-directed behaviours and behavioural flexibility in the adult offspring. This effect is accompanied by epigenetic changes involving histone post-translational modifications at the ​mineralocorticoid receptor (​MR) gene and decreased ​MR expression in the hippocampus. Mimicking these changes pharmacologically in vivo reproduces the behavioural phenotype. These findings highlight the beneficial impact that early adverse experiences can have in adulthood, and the implication of epigenetic modes of gene regulation.

Abstract

Traumatic experiences in childhood can alter behavioural responses and increase the risk for psychopathologies across life, not only in the exposed individuals but also in their progeny. In some conditions, such experiences can however be beneficial and facilitate the appraisal of adverse environments later in life. Here we expose newborn mice to unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress (MSUS) for 2 weeks and assess the impact on behaviour in the offspring when adult. We show that MSUS in male mice favours goal-directed behaviours and behavioural flexibility in the adult offspring. This effect is accompanied by epigenetic changes involving histone post-translational modifications at the ​mineralocorticoid receptor (​MR) gene and decreased ​MR expression in the hippocampus. Mimicking these changes pharmacologically in vivo reproduces the behavioural phenotype. These findings highlight the beneficial impact that early adverse experiences can have in adulthood, and the implication of epigenetic modes of gene regulation.

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21 citations in Web of Science®
14 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Neuroinformatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Brain Research Institute
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:18 November 2014
Deposited On:23 Feb 2015 15:12
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:04
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2041-1723
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6466

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