2016 Volume 41 Issue 5 Pages 583-593
Diesel exhaust consists of diesel exhaust particles (DEPs) and gaseous compounds. Because previous research suggested that in utero exposure to DEPs affected spatial learning and memory in male offspring, while epidemiological evidence suggested disturbances in affect after prenatal exposure to particulates, we hypothesized that DEP exposure during pregnancy might also disturb affect. Here, we explored the effects of in utero exposure to DEPs on anxiety in male ICR mice. DEP solutions were administered subcutaneously to pregnant ICR mice at a dose of 0 or 200 μg/kg body weight on gestation days 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18. We assessed anxiety in 6 week-old male offspring using the hole board test and elevated plus maze test. After the behavioral tests, animals were sacrificed and serotonin (5-HT) levels in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) were measured using HPLC. Mice exposed to DEPs in utero demonstrated increased anxiety in both behavioral tests. HPLC analysis revealed a significant increase in 5-HT levels in the DRN. Double immunolabeling of the DRN using anti-5-HT and anti-FosB (a chronic neuronal activation marker) antibodies indicated chronic activation of the DRN might underlie the increased anxiety after prenatal DEP exposure.