Early Neurobehavioral Development of Mice Lacking Endogenous PACAP
Perinatal asphyxia during delivery produces long-term deficits and represents a major problem in both neonatal and pediatric care. Several morphological, biochemical and behavioral changes have been described in rats exposed to perinatal asphyxia. The aim of the present study was to evaluate how perinatal asphyxia affects the complex early neurobehavioral development and retinal structure of newborn rats. Asphyxia was induced in ready-to-deliver mothers by removing the pups by cesarian section after 15 min of asphyxia. Somatic and neurobehavioral development was tested daily during the first 3 weeks, and motor coordination tests were performed on postnatal weeks 3-5. After completion of the testing procedure, retinas were removed for histological analysis. We found that in spite of the fast catch-up-growth of asphyctic pups, nearly all examined reflexes were delayed by 1-4 days: negative geotaxis, sensory reflexes, righting reflexes, development of fore- and hindlimb grasp and placing, gait and auditory startle reflexes. Time to perform negative geotaxis, surface righting and gait reflexes was significantly longer during the first few weeks in asphyctic pups. Among the motor coordination tests, a markedly weaker performance was observed in the grid walking and footfault test and in the walk initiation test. Retinal structure showed severe degeneration in the layer of the photoreceptor and bipolar cell bodies. In summary, our present study provided a detailed description of reflex and motor development following perinatal asphyxia, showing that asphyxia led to a marked delay in neurobehavioral development and a severe retinal degeneration.