Male mice exposed to chronic social stress have anxious female offspring

August 22, 2012

A study in mice conducted by researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) suggests that a woman's risk of anxiety and dysfunctional social behavior may depend on the experiences of her parents, particularly fathers, when they were young. The study, published online in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that stress caused by chronic social instability during youth contributes to epigenetic changes in sperm cells that can lead to psychiatric disorders in female offspring across multiple generations.

"The long-term can be pernicious. We first found that adolescent mice exposed to chronic social instability, where the cage composition of mice is constantly changing, exhibited anxious behavior and poor social interactions through adulthood. These changes were especially prominent in ," said first author Lorena Saavedra-Rodríguez, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Larry Feig laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM).

The researchers then studied the offspring of these previously-stressed mice and observed that again female, but not male, offspring exhibited elevated anxiety and poor social interactions. Notably, even though the stressed males did not express any of these altered behaviors, they passed on these behaviors to their female offspring after being mated to non-stressed females. Moreover, the male offspring passed on these behaviors to yet another generation of female offspring.

"We are presently searching for biochemical changes in the sperm of stressed fathers that could account for this newly appreciated form of inheritance" said senior author Larry A. Feig, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the biochemistry and neuroscience program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. "Hopefully, this work will stimulate efforts to determine whether similar phenomena occur in humans."

Explore further: Effects of prenatal stress passed across generations in mice

More information: Saavedra-Rodríguez L, Feig LA. Biological Psychiatry. "Chronic Social Instability Induces Anxiety and Defective Social Interactions Across Generations." Available online August 20, 2012. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.06.035

Related Stories

Effects of prenatal stress passed across generations in mice

August 17, 2011

Sons of male mice exposed to prenatal stress are more sensitive to stress as adults, according to a study in the August 17 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. These findings suggest experiences in the womb can lead to individual ...

BPA exposure effects may last for generations

June 15, 2012

Exposure to low doses of Bisphenol A (BPA) during gestation had immediate and long-lasting, trans-generational effects on the brain and social behaviors in mice, according to a recent study accepted for publication in the ...

Novel mechanism regulating stress identified

December 13, 2011

Neuroscience researchers from Tufts have demonstrated, for the first time, that the physiological response to stress depends on neurosteroids acting on specific receptors in the brain, and they have been able to block that ...

Recommended for you

Online daters ignore wish list when choosing a match

February 21, 2017

Despite having a very clear 'wish list' stating their preference for potential ideal matches, most online daters contact people bearing no resemblance to the characteristics they say they want in a mate, according to QUT ...

Depression screening rates in primary care remain low

February 20, 2017

Despite federal recommendations for depression screening, a new Rutgers study found that less than 5 percent of adults were screened for depression in primary care settings. The low screening rate suggests missed opportunities ...

What the ability to 'get the gist' says about your brain

February 17, 2017

Many who have a chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) report struggling to solve problems, understand complex information and maintain friendships, despite scoring normally on cognitive tests. New research from the Center ...

B vitamins reduce schizophrenia symptoms, study finds

February 16, 2017

A review of worldwide studies has found that add-on treatment with high-dose b-vitamins - including B6, B8 and B12 - can significantly reduce symptoms of schizophrenia more than standard treatments alone.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.