Differential development of stress system (re)activity at weaning dependent on time of disruption of maternal care

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brain Res, Volume 1217, p.62-69 (2008)


0006-8993 (Print)0006-89

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Adrenocorticotropic Hormone/blood; Animals; Animals; Newborn; Corticosterone/blood; *Critical Period (Psychology); Female; Hippocampus/metabolism; Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System/*physiology; Immunoassay; In Situ Hybridization; Male; *Maternal Deprivation;


Maternal deprivation, a separation of mother and pups for 24 h in the first weeks of life has long-lasting consequences for the glucocorticoid stress system in rats. We examined in male CD1 mice whether the postnatal day (pnd) of deprivation determines the (re)activity of the stress system at weaning under basal and novelty stress conditions. Maternal deprivation was only effective when applied within the stress hypo-responsive period (SHRP) between pnds 1 and 12, but not on pnd 13. Maternal deprivation (i) early in the SHRP (pnd 3) resulted in lower hippocampal GR mRNA expression together with a prolonged corticosterone response to stress; while (ii) late in the SHRP (pnd 8) the amplitude of the ACTH response to stress was enhanced. (iii) Strikingly, the effects of the double deprivation (pnds 3 and 8) were not additive: sustained, stress non-responsive high plasma ACTH concentrations with corticosterone indistinguishable from control animals coincided with a lower expression of hippocampal MR and GR mRNA. These results present species-specific effects (mouse versus rat) of an adverse early life event on HPA axis regulation at weaning. A subsequent deprivation experience interferes with the effects of earlier deprivation. We conclude that the developmental stage of the organism determines the vulnerability for the detrimental effects of maternal deprivation and the organization of the stress system in adolescence.