1 Dpto. Farmacología, Fac. Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Córdoba, Argentina. 2 Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas y Tecnológicas, FCEFyN, UNC-CONICET. Córdoba, Argentina.
Clinical evidence have suggested that early malnutrition promotes the onset of symptoms related to psychiatric disorders in adulthood. In order to study whether neuronal alterations induced by early nutritional insult induces depressive-like behaviors, half of the animals submitted to a protein malnutrition schedule at perinatal age (D-rats) and well-nourished animals (C-rats), were separated from dams daily for 180 min from PND 1 until PND 10. The other half remained undisturbed. Using validated paradigms commonly employed to assess depressive- and anxiety-like behaviors, different groups of adult rats were subjected to the sucrose preference test, forced swin test, novel object recognition task, behavioral session for ambulatory activity and elevated plus maze. Bearing in mind that BDNF through its receptor TrkB plays an important role in stress-mediated changes in neuroplasticity, we evaluated pTrkB protein levels in the nucleus accumbens, a relevant structure in the pathophysiology of depression and anhedonia. We observed that perinatal undernutrition significantly decreased sucrose preference in both, maternal (MS) and no maternal separated (NMS) groups, compared with C-rats (NMS and MS). Furthermore, immobility time in the forced swim test increaincreased, and object recognition memory was impaired, without affecting locomotor activity, only in D rats maternally separated. No differences were found in the time spent in the open arms of the elevated plus maze. Finally, and regardless of maternal separation, nutritional insult also induced a significant decrease in pTrKB protein levels in the nucleus accumbens, suggesting that TrkB signal pathway plays a key role in the perinatal protein undernutrition induced-anhedonia. Our results suggest that early malnutrition could increase the risk of developing of anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, and facilitates depressive-like behaviors during adulthood in rats exposed to neonatal maternal separation.