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      Prenatal Excess Glucocorticoid Exposure and Adult Affective Disorders: A Role for Serotonergic and Catecholamine Pathways

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          Abstract

          Fetal glucocorticoid exposure is a key mechanism proposed to underlie prenatal ‘programming’ of adult affective behaviours such as depression and anxiety. Indeed, the glucocorticoid metabolising enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2), which is highly expressed in the placenta and the developing fetus, acts as a protective barrier from the high maternal glucocorticoids which may alter developmental trajectories. The programmed changes resulting from maternal stress or bypass or from the inhibition of 11β-HSD2 are frequently associated with alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Hence, circulating glucocorticoid levels are increased either basally or in response to stress accompanied by CNS region-specific modulations in the expression of both corticosteroid receptors (mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors). Furthermore, early-life glucocorticoid exposure also affects serotonergic and catecholamine pathways within the brain, with changes in both associated neurotransmitters and receptors. Indeed, global removal of 11β-HSD2, an enzyme that inactivates glucocorticoids, increases anxiety‐ and depressive-like behaviour in mice; however, in this case the phenotype is not accompanied by overt perturbation in the HPA axis but, intriguingly, alterations in serotonergic and catecholamine pathways are maintained in this programming model. This review addresses one of the potential adverse effects of glucocorticoid overexposure in utero, i.e. increased incidence of affective behaviours, and the mechanisms underlying these behaviours including alteration of the HPA axis and serotonergic and catecholamine pathways.

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          Most cited references 121

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          Glucocorticoids, prenatal stress and the programming of disease.

          An adverse foetal environment is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic, neuroendocrine and psychological disorders in adulthood. Exposure to stress and its glucocorticoid hormone mediators may underpin this association. In humans and in animal models, prenatal stress, excess exogenous glucocorticoids or inhibition of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD2; the placental barrier to maternal glucocorticoids) reduces birth weight and causes hyperglycemia, hypertension, increased HPA axis reactivity, and increased anxiety-related behaviour. Molecular mechanisms that underlie the 'developmental programming' effects of excess glucocorticoids/prenatal stress include epigenetic changes in target gene promoters. In the case of the intracellular glucocorticoid receptor (GR), this alters tissue-specific GR expression levels, which has persistent and profound effects on glucocorticoid signalling in certain tissues (e.g. brain, liver, and adipose). Crucially, changes in gene expression persist long after the initial challenge, predisposing the individual to disease in later life. Intriguingly, the effects of a challenged pregnancy appear to be transmitted possibly to one or two subsequent generations, suggesting that these epigenetic effects persist. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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            Antenatal corticosteroids for accelerating fetal lung maturation for women at risk of preterm birth.

            Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a serious complication of preterm birth and the primary cause of early neonatal mortality and disability. To assess the effects on fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, on maternal mortality and morbidity, and on the child in later life of administering corticosteroids to the mother before anticipated preterm birth. We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group Trials Register (30 October 2005). Randomised controlled comparisons of antenatal corticosteroid administration (betamethasone, dexamethasone, or hydrocortisone) with placebo or with no treatment given to women with a singleton or multiple pregnancy, expected to deliver preterm as a result of either spontaneous preterm labour, preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes or elective preterm delivery. Two review authors assessed trial quality and extracted data independently. Twenty-one studies (3885 women and 4269 infants) are included. Treatment with antenatal corticosteroids does not increase risk to the mother of death, chorioamnionitis or puerperal sepsis. Treatment with antenatal corticosteroids is associated with an overall reduction in neonatal death (relative risk (RR) 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58 to 0.81, 18 studies, 3956 infants), RDS (RR 0.66, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.73, 21 studies, 4038 infants), cerebroventricular haemorrhage (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.69, 13 studies, 2872 infants), necrotising enterocolitis (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.74, eight studies, 1675 infants), respiratory support, intensive care admissions (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.99, two studies, 277 infants) and systemic infections in the first 48 hours of life (RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.85, five studies, 1319 infants). Antenatal corticosteroid use is effective in women with premature rupture of membranes and pregnancy related hypertension syndromes. The evidence from this new review supports the continued use of a single course of antenatal corticosteroids to accelerate fetal lung maturation in women at risk of preterm birth. A single course of antenatal corticosteroids should be considered routine for preterm delivery with few exceptions. Further information is required concerning optimal dose to delivery interval, optimal corticosteroid to use, effects in multiple pregnancies, and to confirm the long-term effects into adulthood.
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              MRI-based measurement of hippocampal volume in patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder.

              Studies in nonhuman primates suggest that high levels of cortisol associated with stress have neurotoxic effects on the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in memory. The authors previously showed that patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had deficits in short-term memory. The purpose of this study was to compare the hippocampal volume of patients with PTSD to that of subjects without psychiatric disorder. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the volume of the hippocampus in 26 Vietnam combat veterans with PTSD and 22 comparison subjects selected to be similar to the patients in age, sex, race, years of education, socioeconomic status, body size, and years of alcohol abuse. The PTSD patients had a statistically significant 8% smaller right hippocampal volume relative to that of the comparison subjects, but there was no difference in the volume of other brain regions (caudate and temporal lobe). Deficits in short-term verbal memory as measured with the Wechsler Memory Scale were associated with smaller right hippocampal volume in the PTSD patients only. These findings are consistent with a smaller right hippocampal volume in PTSD that is associated with functional deficits in verbal memory.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Neuroendocrinology
                Neuroendocrinology
                NEN
                Neuroendocrinology
                S. Karger AG (Allschwilerstrasse 10, P.O. Box · Postfach · Case postale, CH–4009, Basel, Switzerland · Schweiz · Suisse, Phone: +41 61 306 11 11, Fax: +41 61 306 12 34, karger@karger.ch )
                0028-3835
                1423-0194
                February 2012
                25 October 2011
                25 October 2011
                : 95
                : 1
                : 47-55
                Affiliations
                Endocrinology Unit, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen's Medical Research Institute, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
                Author notes
                *C.S. Wyrwoll, Endocrinology Unit, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen's Medical Research Institute, 47 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ (UK), Tel. +44 131 242 6746, E-Mail cwyrwoll@ 123456staffmail.ed.ac.uk
                Article
                nen-0095-0047
                10.1159/000331345
                3388616
                22042385
                e68f26b5-4bb1-4116-8908-780bcebcc400
                Copyright © 2011 by S. Karger AG, Basel

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). Users may download, print and share this work on the Internet for noncommercial purposes only, provided the original work is properly cited, and a link to the original work on http://www.karger.com and the terms of this license are included in any shared versions.

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                Figures: 1, References: 108, Pages: 9
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