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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Sep 2022 - 9 Sep 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Sep 02

Mol Psychiatry

Got milk? Maternal immune activation during the mid-lactational period affects nutritional milk quality and adolescent offspring sensory processing in male and female rats.


Previous studies have underscored the importance of breastfeeding and parental care on offspring development and behavior. However, their contribution as dynamic variables in animal models of early life stress are often overlooked. In the present study, we investigated how lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced maternal immune activation (MIA) on postnatal day (P)10 affects maternal care, milk, and offspring development. MIA was associated with elevated milk corticosterone concentrations on P10, which recovered by P11. In contrast, both milk triglyceride and percent creamatocrit values demonstrated a prolonged decrease following inflammatory challenge. Adolescent MIA offspring were heavier, which is often suggestive of poor early life nutrition. While MIA did not decrease maternal care quality, there was a significant compensatory increase in maternal licking and grooming the day following inflammatory challenge. However, this did not protect against disrupted neonatal huddling or later-life alterations in sensorimotor gating, conditioned fear, mechanical allodynia, or reductions in hippocampal parvalbumin expression in MIA offspring. MIA-associated changes in brain and behavior were likely driven by differences in milk nutritional values and not by direct exposure to LPS or inflammatory molecules as neither LPS binding protein nor interleukin-6 milk levels differed between groups. These findings reflected comparable microbiome and transcriptomic patterns at the genome-wide level. Animal models of early life stress can impact both parents and their offspring. One mechanism that can mediate the effects of such stressors is changes to maternal lactation quality which our data show can confer multifaceted and compounding effects on offspring physiology and behavior.