The aim of the present study was to elucidate whether prenatal chronic stress, in combination with exposure to a developmental neurotoxicant, would increase effects in the offspring compared with the effects of either exposure alone. Development and neurobehavioral effects were investigated in female offspring of pregnant rats (Mol:WIST) exposed to chronic mild stress (CMS) during gestational days (GD) 9-20, or 1500 ppm toluene, 6 h/day during gestational days 7-20, or a combination of the two. Prenatal CMS was associated with decreased thymic weight and increased auditory startle response. The corticosterone response to restraint seemed modified by prenatal exposure to toluene. Lactational body weight was decreased in offsprings subjected to CMS, primarily due to effects in the combined exposure group. Cognitive function was investigated in the Morris water maze, and some indications of improved function due to CMS were observed. In the present experimental setting, there was no indication of the two exposures potentiating each other with respect to adverse effects on the nervous system. However, the effects of prenatal CMS indicate that stress during fetal life may interfere with the development of the thymus and increase the reactivity (startle reflex) of the offspring.
Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 2005, Vol 27, Issue 1, p. 153-167