Long-term effects of preterm birth on behavior and neurosteroid sensitivity in the guinea pig
Background: Ex-preterm children and adolescents are at risk of developing late-onset neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders. The mechanisms by which this happens are poorly understood and relevant animal models are required. Methods: Ex-preterm (delivered at 62 d gestation) and term (spontaneously delivered) juvenile guinea pigs underwent behavioral testing at 25 d corrected postnatal age, with tissues collected at 28 d. Neurodevelopmental markers (myelin basic protein (MBP) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)) were analyzed in the hippocampus and subcortical white matter by immunohistochemistry. Gamma-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptor subunit mRNA levels were quantified by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and salivary cortisol measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Preterm males travelled greater distances, were mobile for longer, spent more time investigating objects, and approached or interacted with familiar animals more than controls. Myelination and reactive astrocyte coverage was lower in the hippocampus and the subcortical white matter in preterm males. Hippocampal levels of the α5 subunit were also lower in the preterm male brain. Baseline salivary cortisol was higher for preterm males compared to controls. Conclusion: We conclude that juvenile ex-preterm male guinea pigs exhibit a hyperactive phenotype and feature impaired neurodevelopment, making this a suitable model for future therapeutic studies.