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Pregnancy and Maternal Behavior Induce Changes in Glia, Glutamate and Its Metabolism within the Cingulate Cortex

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023529
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Endocrine System
  • Endocrine Physiology
  • Hormones
  • Model Organisms
  • Animal Models
  • Neuroscience
  • Neurochemistry
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biology


An upregulation of the astrocytic proteins GFAP and bFGF within area 2 of the cingulate cortex (Cg2) occurs within 3 hours of parturition in rats. These changes are the result of an interaction between hormonal state and maternal experience and are associated with increased dendritic spine density in this area. Here, we examined whether this upregulation of astrocytic proteins generalized to other glial markers and, in particular those associated with glutamate metabolism. We chose glial markers commonly used to reflect different aspects of glial function: vimentin, like GFAP, is a marker of intermediate filaments; glutamine synthetase (GS), and S-100beta, are used as markers for mature astrocytes and GS has also been used as a specific marker for glutamatergic enzymatic activity. In addition, we examined levels of proteins associated with glutamine synthetase, glutamate, glutamine and two excitatory amino acid transporters found in astrocytes, glt-1 and glast. S100beta immunoreactivity did not vary with reproductive state in either Cg2 or MPOA suggesting no change in the number of mature astrocytes across these conditions. Vimentin-ir did not differ across groups in Cg2, but expression of this protein decreased from Day 1 postpartum onwards in the MPOA. By contrast, GS-ir was increased within 24 h postpartum in Cg2 but not MPOA and similarly to GFAP and bFGF this upregulation of GS resulted from an interaction between hormonal state and maternal experience. Within Cg2, upregulation of GS was not accompanied by changes in the astrocytic glutamatergic transporters, glt-1 and glast, however, an increase in both glutamate and glutamine proteins were observed within the Cg2 of postpartum animals. Together, these changes suggest postpartum upregulation of glutamatergic activity and metabolism within Cg2 that is stimulated by pregnancy hormones and maternal experience.

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