Embryonic exposure to dexamethasone affects nonneuronal cells in the adult paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus

Krystle A. Frahm, Robert J. Handa, Stuart A. Tobet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) integrate peripheral signals and coordinate responses that maintain numerous homeostatic functions. An excess of glucocorticoids during fetal development results in long-lasting consequences tied to disrupted PVN development. The PVN contains a distinct neuronal population and a threefold greater vascular density than the surrounding brain regions that prepubertally is reduced in offspring exposed to excess glucocorticoids in utero. This study expands the examination of sex-specific nonneuronal PVN composition by examining astrocytes, astrocytic endfeet, and pericytes. Blood-brain barrier (BBB) competency and composition were examined along with depressive-like behavior and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function in male and female mice. For PVN vasculature, female offspring of vehicle (veh)-treated mothers had significantly more astrocytes and pericytes than male offspring from the same litters. Female offspring from dexamethasone (dex)-treated mothers had significantly lower levels of astrocytes than female offspring from veh-treated mothers, whereas male offspring from dex-treated mothers had greater levels of pericytes compared with veh-treated male offspring. Using the tail-suspension test, male and female offspring from dex-treated mothers had significantly shorter latencies to immobility, indicating an increase in depression-like behavior, and showed greater plasma corticosterone after restraint stress, which was significantly greater in female offspring from dex-treated mothers even after recovery. Therefore, in addition to long-term sex differences in cellular components of the BBB in the PVN that were differentially regulated by fetal glucocorticoid exposure, there were behavioral differences observed into early adulthood in a sex-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-153
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Endocrine Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Astrocytes
  • Glucocorticoids
  • HPA-axis
  • Paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus
  • Pericytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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