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Mouse Model of Postpartum Depression Developed

Mice in study lacked a major target of neurosteroid hormones

THURSDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Mice lacking a major target of neurosteroid hormones, which have been implicated in various psychiatric and neurological disorders, display abnormal postpartum behavior and may be a useful model for postpartum depression, researchers report in the July 31 issue of Neuron.

Jamie Maguire, Ph.D., and Istvan Mody, Ph.D., from the University of California Los Angeles investigated the importance of the GABAA receptor, a major target of neurosteroid hormones, in mice lacking one or both copies of the delta subunit of the receptor. They note that neurosteroid levels rise during pregnancy and fall at parturition.

The researchers found significant reductions in the levels of the delta and gamma-2 subunits of the GABAA receptor during pregnancy, which returned to normal levels postpartum. Mice lacking one or both copies of the delta subunit displayed depression-like and abnormal maternal behaviors, which led to reduced pup survival. These behaviors could be reversed by treating mice lacking one copy of the delta subunit with an agonist against the delta subunit.

"Our study provides important clues for the pathogenesis of postpartum depression and provides a useful mouse model for the disease," Maguire and Mody conclude.

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