Effects of early-life administration of methamphetamine on the depressive-like behaviour later in life in stress-sensitive and control rats
Methamphetamine (MA) is a well-known, easily accessible and powerful psychostimulant, and its abuse has become a global problem. MA abuse affects millions of people worldwide and places an enormous burden on public healthcare resources. Documented consequences of MA abuse include cardiotoxic, neurotoxic and teratogenic effects, as well as long-term consequences of chronic abuse including affective disorders such as schizophrenia and major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is a highly prevalent mood disorder in both adults and children, documented to contribute to approximately 850 000 suicides annually. This disorder is projected to become the 2nd leading disease of global burden by 2020, preceded only by ischemic heart disease. Depressive-like behaviour is documented as a symptom of chronic MA abuse and particularly during extensive MA withdrawal. Also, MA abuse during pregnancy is documented to cause neurodevelopmental changes that persist into later life. However, current understanding thereof is limited and warrants further investigation of the effects of early-life exposure to MA on outcome in adulthood, particularly in terms of mood disorders. The aim of the current study was to determine the effect of chronic exposure to MA on the depressive-like behaviour later in life in stress-sensitive (Flinders Sensitive Line) and control (Flinders Resistant Line) rats. Rats were exposed during one of the following natal day (ND) age groups: prenatal (ND-13 to ND+02), postnatal (ND+03 to ND+18), prepuberty (ND+19 to ND+34) or puberty (ND+35 to ND+50). These age groups represent different stages in neurodevelopment, as also seen in humans. For prenatal exposure, pregnant dams received 5 mg/kg daily subcutaneously (s.c.), and pups from postnatal, prepuberty and puberty age groups received an escalating dose regimen to simulate “binge-dosing” commonly seen in humans abusing MA. After MA exposure, rats were housed normally until behavioural testing on postnatal day 60 (ND+60), which included the novel object recognition test (NOR), open field test (OFT) and forced swim test (FST), measuring cognitive function, locomotor activity and depressive-like behaviour respectively. The FST data showed increased immobility behaviour of saline-treated FSL rats relative to that of FRL rats, in line with previous data validating FSL rats as a genetic rodent model of depression. Practically significant MA-induced increases in immobility behaviour were observed in all FSL and FRL treatment groups in the FST, reaching statistical significance in prenatally treated FRL rats, and in postnatally, prepuberty and puberty treated FSL rats. The data suggest that early-life MA exposure may alter neurodevelopment to predispose the rats to display depressive-like behaviour in early adulthood, and suggests that this detrimental effect of MA may be more expressed in stress-sensitive rats. Furthermore, all FSL groups plus prenatally and puberty treated FRL rats revealed practically and statistically significant decreases in swimming behaviour in the FST, whereas decreases in swimming behaviour in prepuberty treated FRL rats were practically significant but did not reach statistical significance. These data suggest that MA-induced depressive-like behaviour in FSL rats may be related to impaired serotonergic neurotransmission, and that this appears to be more robust in FSL rats. Climbing behaviour in the FST was generally not altered by early-life MA exposure, with a notable exception being a practically and statistically significant increase in puberty treated FRL rats. These data suggest that in general early-life MA exposure does not affect noradrenergic neurotransmission in early adulthood, except when normal rats were treated at puberty. The reason for the latter observation is not clear. The data from the NOR test revealed no discernible trends of MA-induced effects on memory and cognition, except for a small albeit practically significant increase in exploration time in prepuberty treated FRL rats and a practically and statistically significant decrease in exploration time in puberty-treated FRL rats. Lastly, locomotor activity in the OFT was mostly unaffected by MA treatments, except for practically significant decreases in locomotor activity in postnatally-and prepuberty-treated FRL rats and practically and statistically significant decreases in locomotor activity of prepuberty treated FSL rats. Altered locomotor activity is therefore not expected to explain any of the immobility results of the FST. In final conclusion, the study confirms that early-life MA exposure results in a depressogenic effect later in life in stress-sensitive (FSL) and control (FRL) rats, but appears to be more robust in stress-sensitive animals. Furthermore the data suggest that long-lasting MA-induced depressogenic effects may relate to impaired serotonergic neurotransmission.
- Health Sciences