Prenatal stress disrupts social behavior, cortical neurobiology and commensal microbes in adult male offspring

Tamar L. Gur, Aditi Vadodkar Palkar, Therese Rajasekera, Jacob Allen, Anzela Niraula, Jonathan Godbout, Michael T. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In utero and early neonatal exposure to maternal stress is linked with psychiatric disorders, and the underlying mechanisms are currently being elucidated. We used a prenatal stressor in pregnant mice to examine novel relationships between prenatal stress exposure, changes in the gut microbiome, and social behavior. Here, we show that males exposed to prenatal stress had a significant reduction in social behavior in adulthood, with increased corticosterone release following social interaction. Male offspring exposed to prenatal stress also had neuroinflammation, decreased oxytocin receptor, and decreased serotonin metabolism in their cortex in adulthood, which are linked to decreased social behavior. Finally, we found a significant difference in commensal microbes, including decreases in Bacteroides and Parabacteroides, in adult male offspring exposed to prenatal stress when compared to non-stressed controls. Our findings indicate that gestation is a critical window where maternal stress contributes to the development of aberrant social behaviors and alterations in cortical neurobiology, and that prenatal stress is sufficient to disrupt the male gut-brain axis into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-894
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Microbiome
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Prenatal stress
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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