Influence of postnatal maternal stress on blood pressure and heart rate of juvenile and adult rat offspring

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  • Influence of Postnatal Maternal Stress on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate of Juvenile and Adult Rat Offspring ELLIOTT MILLS JOSEPH W. BRUCKERT PETER G. SMITH Department of Pharmacology Duke University Medical Center Durham, North Carolina

    Autonomic control of blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) was tested in offspring of rat dams that were unmanipulated (controls) or exposed repeatedly to either ( I ) Postnatal restraint, (2) Postnatal S.C. injections of alkaline saline, or (3) Prenatal S.C. alkaline saline. Under urethane anesthesia, BP was higher than control in 20-day-old offspring of restrained dams and lower at 80 days. The magnitude of the BP response to autonomic ganglionic blockade (chlorisondamine) changed in parallel; the control HR accelerator response was reversed at 20 days and enhanced at 80 days. Postnatal maternal injections increased BP in 20-day-old offspring and lowered it at 80 days. The BP response to blockade was unchanged; HR acceleration was attenuated at 20 days and increased at 80 days. N o influence of Prenarul maternal injections was seen in adult offspring. Conclusion: Post-not prenatal maternal stress disrupts BP and HR control in rat offspring; disruption is greater after restraint than injection. There is sympathetic hyperactivity in preweanlings and hypoactivity in adults.

    Exposure of the rat to drugs or hormones in utero or via nursing can alter the postnatal development of the sympathetic nervous system (see for example Lau & Slotkin, 1980; Slotkin, Weigel, Barnes, Whitmore, & Seidler, 1981; Navarro, Seidler, Whitmore, & Slotkin, 1988). While testing for related cardiovascular effects, we found that a maternal sham treatment altered the offsprings blood pressure (Smith & Mills, 1983). The treatment was S.C. injection of alkaline saline, 2 pl/g (a vehicle for thyroid hormone, Lau & Slotkin, 1980) from gestational Day 19 to postnatal Day 9. The anesthetized offspring of injected dams had higher resting blood pressure (58% increase in MAP) at 19-23 days of age and lower

    Reprint requests should be sent to Elliott Mills, Department of Pharmacology, Box 3813, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, U.S.A.

    Received for publication 28 March 1990 Revised for publication 12 June 1990 Accepted at Wiley 27 August 1990

    Deuelopmenrul Psychobiology 23(8):839-847 ( 1990) 0 1990 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. CCC 0012-1630/90/080839-W$04.00


    pressure (35% decrease) at 82-86 days of age. In contrast, pups that were injected from birth to Day 9 remained normotensive. These observations suggested that manipulation of nursing dams might alter development of autonomic cardiovascu- lar control mechanisms in the offspring.

    The influence of infantile experience on adult physiology is an area of long- standing interest in developmental psychobiology (Denenberg, 1971 ; Levine, 1971 ; Myers, Brunelli, Squire, Shindeldecker, & Hofer, 1989). Withal, there is scant evidence for an influence on cardiovascular function: adult rats handled as neo- nates are reported to have a reduced heart rate response to novel stimulation (Blizard, 1971). Suggestive of a maternal influence, correlation analysis indicates that differences in behavioral interactions between rat mothers and pups contribute to variance in adult blood pressure (Myers et al., 1989).

    In the current experiments, nursing dams were exposed to two types of stress- ful intervention: restraint or S . C . injection (Brown & Martin, 1974; Pare & Glavin, 1986). Other, pregnant dams received S.C. injections. Offspring were studied at 17-20 or 80-85 days of age. To determine if tonic autonomic activity to the vasculature or heart was heightened or diminished, the blood pressure and heart rate response to pharmacologic blockade of ganglionic neurotransmission was measured.

    Methods Sprague-Dawley rats (Charles River Breeding Laboratories, Raleigh, N.C.)

    were used. Pregnant dams were caged individually, maintained in a 14 : 10 hr light/ dark cycle, and allowed free access to food and water.

    Injecting or Restraining Dams Postnatally Pregnant dams were received during the second week of gestation. At birth,

    the pups were randomized and redistributed to the nursing mothers; the litter size was set at 10. Six dams were controls, 6 received injections and 6 were restrained. Controls were handled only for cage maintenance. On postnatal days 1-23, dams were either injected S.C. with alkaline saline (0.4 ml adjusted to pH 9-10; Smith & Mills, 1983) or restrained for 45 min in the supine position beneath plastic mesh stapled to a padded board. Measurements were made on 18 of the offspring when they were 17-20 days of age: one pup was used from each of the litters nursed by the control, injected or restrained dams. The other pups were weaned at 24 days of age and housed with their littermates. At 80-85 days of age, experiments were performed on 18 of these offspring: one born of each of the dams in the control or treatments groups. Pups of both sexes were studied. Wherever possible, groups were comprised of equal numbers of males and females.

    Injecting Dams Prenatally Dams used in this study were received on gestational Days 2-3. Daily S.C.

    injections of alkaline saline were given to 6 of the rats on gestational Days 4 to 21. The 6 controls were handled only for cage maintenance. At birth, pups were randomized within group and redistributed to the nursing dams. Offspring of both


    sexes were studied when they were 80- to 85-days-old. As no significant effects were detected in adults, younger animals were not studied.

    Measurements on Offspring of Injected or Restrained Nursing Dams Experiments on preweanlings were started at 0900 hr; the maternal treatments

    were carried out starting at 1600 hr. The rats were weighed and anesthetized with urethane (ethyl carbamate, 1-1.5 mg/g, i.p.). A femoral artery and vein were cannulated. The rats breathed room air enriched by a stream of 40% 0, in N, directed toward the snout. Body temperature was measured with a rectal probe and maintained at 37"-38"C with a regulator and heat lamp. Blood pressure (Gould 23d transducer) and heart rate (Grass 7P4 Tachograph, triggered by pressure pulse) were recorded continuously on a polygraph. Thirty min were allowed for stabilization of blood pressure and heart rate. Control values were obtained during the next five min. Chlorisondarnine (Ecolid, CIBA Pharmaceuticals, Summitt NJ), a specific and long acting ganglionic blocking agent (Plummet-, Trapold, Schneider, Maxwell, & Earl, 1955), was then administered intravenously in a dose known to be supramaxirnum for blockade and hypotension in preweanling and adult rats (2.5 mg/kg, Mills & Smith, 1986). The post-ganglionic blockade values were obtained starting five minutes after drug administration when blood pressure and heart rate were restabilized.

    Blood pressure and heart rate were read from the continuous polygraph record at 1 min intervals for 5 min during the control and post-ganglionic blockade periods. The variation among the five blood pressure or heart rate readings was 5 5%. The readings were averaged to obtain a single control value and single post-ganglionic blockade value for each experiment.

    After measuring post-ganglionic blockade blood pressure in the offspring that were 80-85 days of age, we tested the capacity of the vasculature to respond to noradrenergic stimulation by measuring the maximum pressor response to the selective alpha- 1 agonist, methoxamine (Vasoxyl, Burroughs- Wellcome). The ago- nist was administered intravenously (injection volume of 2 pl/g body weight) in repeated cummulative doses (0.05-2.0 mg/kg) until the maximum increase in blood pressure was recorded (Mills et al., 1986).

    Individuals reading the blood pressure records were unaware of the treatment group from which they were obtained.


    Data from offspring of the postnatally restrained or injected dams was tested first by 2-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) for treatment effects and for age by treatment interactions. Factor 1 was treatment; the levels were control, restraint, and injection. Factor 2 was age; the levels were 20 days and 80 days. These ANOVAs were done on values for resting blood pressure, change in blood pressure after chlorisondamine, resting heart rate, and change in rate after chlorisondamine. The ANOVAs identified a significant treatment by age interaction for each of the variables but no treatment effect ( F 2,30 values respectively = 0.71, 1.54, 1.17 and 1.46, p > .05). Accordingly, the significance of differences between individual groups was assessed with Duncan's multiple range test. Note that the 6 replicates


    Table I Body Weights of Offspring on Which Experiments Were Performed. Each entry is the mean +- S.E . of 6 unimals.

    Maternal Treatment

    Offspring Postnatal Prenatal Age (Days) Control Restraint Injection Injection

    11-20 4 6 ? 2 4 3 t 2 5 4 t 2 80-85 318 ? 24 315 5 24 315 t 21 80-85 325 ? 20 301 ? 21

    For offspring of postnatally restrained or injected dams. ANOVA (performed on log values) did not detect significant treat- ment ( F = 2.16) or age by treatment interaction ( F = 2.20). For offspring of prenatally injected dams, no significant treatment effect.

    in the control or treatment groups consisted of one pup from each of the 6 litters in the group. One-way ANOVAs were performed on values for same variables from 80 to 85-day-old offspring of prenatally injected dams.

    Results Maternal treatments did not influence the body weights of the offspring (Table

    1). The control values of bloo


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