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The Serotonin Transporter and Early Life Stress: Do they interact and induce an anxiety-like phenotype?

Gerbrandij, Marrit Dirkje (2019) The Serotonin Transporter and Early Life Stress: Do they interact and induce an anxiety-like phenotype? Research Project, Science Education and Communication.

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Variation of the serotonin transporter (SERT) gene was suggested to exert a modulating effect on the association between early life stress (ELS) and the risk for anxiety and/or depressive disorders. Rodents with diminished SERT function seem more anxious than wildtypes. ELS, induced by low maternal care, is known to increase anxiety like behaviour in rats in general. In addition, genotype x environment (GxE) interactions are proposed to play a key role in behavioural alterations found in animals with vulnerable genes who were exposed to adverse environments. In the present study we investigated whether ELS in female rats with different SERT genotypes would alter affective behaviour. To this extent, SERT+/+, SERT+/- and SERT-/- rats were exposed to maternal separation from postnatal day 2-15 either for 3 or 6 hours. Also differences in unpredictable or predictable maternal separation was tested. Finally, we also tested whether it made a difference if the mother was stressed during the maternal separation period or not. The pups were tested during adulthood for anxiety-like and cognitive behaviour in an open field (OF), elevated plus maze (EPM), home cage emergence (HCE) and novel object recognition (NOR). Results showed a genotype effect. In the OF, EPM and HCE behaviour tests an increase in anxiety-like behaviour is observed in SERT-/- rats compared to SERT+/+ and SERT+/- rats. However, no ELS effects on anxiety-like behaviour are found in this study. Furthermore, we found some GxE interaction effects in the EPM and NOR test. In the EPM SERT-/-/CTRL rats, which are not exposed to ELS, show an increase in anxiety-like behaviour. This effect is less apparent in the SERT-/- group when ELS is induced. Further, the SERT+/+MS360 group showed an increase in anxiety-like behaviour compared to the other SERT+/+ groups, indicating that duration of separation also influences anxiety-like behaviour. In the NOR test the SERT+/+MSU180 and SERT-/-MSU180 groups show lower levels of recognition of a novel object. These results indicate an increased vulnerability of SERT-/- rats to develop anxiety-like behaviour. However, a conclusive interaction between ELS, induced by maternal separation, and SERT genotype on anxiety-like behaviour is not found.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Degree programme: Science Education and Communication
Thesis type: Research Project
Language: English
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2019
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2019 12:04

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