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Disruption of rat forebrain development by glucocorticoids: Critical perinatal periods for effects on neural cell acquisition and on cell signaling cascades mediating noradrenergic and cholinergic neurotransmitter/neurotrophic responses
Glucocorticoids are the consensus treatment for the prevention of respiratory distress in preterm infants, but there is evidence for increased incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders as a result of their administration. We administered dexamethasone (Dex) to developing rats at doses below or within the range of those used clinically, evaluating the effects on forebrain development with exposure in three different stages: gestational days 17-19, postnatal days 1-3, or postnatal days 7-9. At 24 h after the last dose, we evaluated biomarkers of neural cell acquisition and growth, synaptic development, neurotransmitter receptor expression, and synaptic signaling mediated by adenylyl cyclase (AC). Dex impaired the acquisition of neural cells, with a peak effect when given in the immediate postnatal period. In association with this defect, Dex also elicited biphasic effects on cholinergic presynaptic development, promoting synaptic maturation at a dose (0.05 mg/kg) well below those used therapeutically, whereas the effect was diminished or lost when doses were increased to 0.2 or 0.8 mg/kg. Dex given postnatally also disrupted the expression of adrenergic receptors known to participate in neurotrophic modeling of the developing brain and evoked massive induction of AC activity. As a consequence, disparate receptor inputs all produced cyclic AMP overproduction, a likely contributor to disrupted patterns of cell replication, differentiation, and apoptosis. Superimposed on the heterologous AC induction, Dex impaired specific receptor-mediated cholinergic and adrenergic signals. These results indicate that, during a critical developmental period, Dex administration leads to widespread interference with forebrain development, likely contributing to eventual, adverse neurobehavioral outcomes. © 2005 Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
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