Effects of chronic methamphetamine exposure during early or late phase development in normal and social isolation reared rats
Methamphetamine (MA) abuse is a fast growing drug problem, and is the second most widely abused drug world-wide. MA abuse has been linked to the development of symptoms indistinguishable from schizophrenia, referred to as MA psychosis. MA abusing individuals, who most often comprise adolescents and young adults, are 11 times more likely than the general population to develop psychosis. Of further concern is that in utero exposure to MA is also a growing problem, with more women addicts choosing MA as their primary drug. This has significant implications for the neurodevelopment of the child, with subsequent behavioural deficits later in life. Epidemiological studies suggests that in utero or early life MA exposure places a vulnerable individual at greater risk for developing schizophrenia, although this has never been formerly studied either at clinical or pre-clinical level. Animal models of early life adversity, such as post-weaning social isolation rearing (SIR), can assist in understanding the underlying mechanisms in MA abuse and vulnerability to develop MA psychosis. The aim of the current study was to investigate the long term effects of either prenatal (in utero) or early postnatal administration of MA on the development of schizophrenia-like behavioural and neurochemical abnormalities later in life. In the in utero study, pregnant female Wistar rats received either saline (Sal) or MA 5 mg/kg/day for 16 days by subcutaneous (s.c.) injection , starting on prenatal day 13 (PreND-13) up to postnatal day 2 (PostND02). Male offspring were selected for the study. On PostND 21, the animals were weaned and reared under group or isolation reared conditions for 8 weeks. In the early postnatal study, adult male Wistar rats were divided into group reared and SIR conditions from PostND21. Either group received an escalating dose of MA twice a day (0.2 mg/kg – 6 mg/kg s.c.) or Sal for 16 days, from PostND35 to PostND50. Both in utero and early postnatal groups were then subjected to various behavioural tests on PostND78, including assessment of social interaction (SI) and prepulse inhibition (PPI) of acoustic startle. Following behavioural testing, rats were sacrificed and brains snap frozen for later analysis of cortico-striatal monoamine concentrations, superoxide dismutase activity and lipid peroxidation. In the prenatally exposed group no differences in %PPI was observed, although group reared animals receiving MA and SIR animals receiving Sal or MA showed a decrease in social interactive behaviours, including approaching, time together and anogenital sniffing. SIR animals receiving Sal or MA also showed a decrease in rearing. Regarding self-directed behaviours, group reared animals receiving MA and SIR animals receiving Sal or MA showed an increase in self-grooming. Although some disturbances in regional brain monoamines were observed in the frontal cortex and striatum across the groups, this did not reach significance. A significant increase in malondialdehyde was observed in the striatum in group reared animals receiving MA as well as SIR animals receiving Sal or MA, indicating cell damage, possibly of redox origin. In the early postnatal study, %PPI was significantly reduced in group reared animals receiving MA as well as in SIR animals receiving Sal or MA. Group reared animals receiving MA and SIR animals receiving Sal or MA showed a decrease in social interactive behaviours, including rearing, approaching, time together and anogenital sniffing. Regarding self-directed behaviours and locomotor activity, self-grooming and squares crossed was significantly increased in group reared animals receiving MA and SIR animals receiving Sal or MA. A significant increase in DA was evident in the frontal cortex of SIR and grouped housed animals receiving MA. DA in the MA + SIR combination was elevated but not significantly so. None of the treatments affected striatal monoamine levels. In the group reared animals receiving MA as well as the SIR animals receiving Sal or MA, a significant decrease in SOD activity was observed in the frontal cortex, indicating the presence of oxidative stress in this brain region. None of the parameters indicated an additive effect in MA + SIR treated animals. In conclusion, prenatal exposure to MA led to some evidence of late-life behavioural and neurochemical abnormalities akin to schizophrenia, confirming its penchant for psychotogenic effects. However, chronic postnatal MA exposure was more emphatic, being as effective as SIR, a neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia, in inducing deficits in the above-mentioned behavioural and neurochemical parameters. Thus, early adolescent abuse of MA is a significant risk factor for the later development of schizophrenia or psychosis. However, the risk appeared not to be exacerbated in a population at risk, i.e. in SIR animals.
- Health Sciences