Toxicology letters

Prenatal buprenorphine exposure decreases neurogenesis in rats.

PMID 24321744


Perinatal opioid exposure has a negative effect on neurogenesis and produces neurological consequences. However, its mechanisms of action are incompletely understood. Buprenorphine, a mixed opioid agonist/antagonist, is an alternative medication for managing pregnant opioid addicts. This study provides evidence of decreased neurogenesis and depression-like consequences following prenatal exposure to buprenorphine and sheds light on mechanisms of action in a rat model involving administration of intraperitoneal injection to pregnant rats starting from gestation day 7 and lasting for 14 days and a cultured neurosphere model. Results of forced swimming test and tail suspension test showed that pups at postnatal day 21 had worse parameters of depression-like neurobehaviors, independent of gender. Neurobehavioral changes were accompanied by reduction of neuronal composition, biochemical parameters of neural stem/progenitor cells, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, tropomyosin-related kinase receptor type B phosphorylation, protein kinase A (PKA) activity, and cAMP response element-binding protein phosphorylation. Results of parallel cell studies further demonstrated a negative impact of buprenorphine on cultured neurospheres, including proliferation, differentiation, BDNF expression and signaling, and PKA activity. Taken together, our results suggest that prenatal exposure to buprenorphine might result in depression-like phenotypes associated with impaired BDNF action and decreased neurogenesis in the developing brain of weanlings.