Background: Dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid, is commonly used to prevent or lessen the morbidity of chronic lung disease in preterm infants. However, evidence is now increasing that this clinical practice negatively affects somatic growth and may result in long-lasting neurodevelopmental deficits. We therefore hypothesized that supporting normal somatic growth may overcome the lasting adverse effects of neonatal DEX treatment on hippocampal function. Methodology/Principal Findings: To test this hypothesis, we developed a rat model using a schedule of tapering doses of DEX similar to that used in premature infants and examined whether the lasting influence of neonatal DEX treatment on hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory performance are correlated with the deficits in somatic growth. We confirmed that neonatal DEX treatment switched the direction of synaptic plasticity in hippocampal CA1 region, favoring low-frequency stimulation- and group I metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist (S)-3,5,-dihydroxyphenylglycine-induced long-term depression (LTD), and opposing the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) by high-frequency stimulation in the adolescent period. The effects of DEX on LTP and LTD were correlated with an increase in the autophosphorylation of Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II at threonine-286 and a decrease in the protein phosphatase 1 expression. Neonatal DEX treatment resulted in a disruption of memory retention subjected to object recognition task and passive avoidance learning. The adverse effects of neonatal DEX treatment on hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory performance of the animals from litters culled to 4 pups were significantly less than those for the 8-pup litters. However, there0020was no significant difference in maternal care between groups. Conclusion/Significance: Our results demonstrate that growth retardation plays a crucial role in DEX-induced long-lasting influence of hippocampal function. Our findings suggest that therapeutic strategies designed to support normal development and somatic growth may exert beneficial effects to reduce lasting adverse effects following neonatal DEX treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)