Hypothalamic Gene Expression and Postpartum Behavior in a Genetic Rat Model of Depression

Wendy Luo, Patrick H. Lim, Stephanie L. Wert, Stephanie A. Gacek, Hao Chen, Eva E. Redei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Postpartum depression is a complex illness that often occurs in genetically predisposed individuals. Closely related inbred rat strains are a great resource to identify novel causative genes and mechanisms underlying complex traits such as postpartum behavior. We report differences in these behaviors between the inbred depression model, Wistar Kyoto (WKY) More Immobile (WMI), and the isogenic control Wistar Kyoto Less Immobile (WLI) dams. WMI dams showed significantly lower litter survival rate and frequency of arched back and blanket nursing, but increased pup-directed licking, grooming, and retrieval during postpartum days (PPD) 1–10, compared to control WLIs. This increased pup-directed behavior and the frequency of self-directed behaviors segregated during selective breeding of the progenitor strain of WKY, which is also a depression model. These behaviors are manifested in the WMIs in contrast to those of WLIs. Furthermore, habitual differences in the self-directed behavior between light and dark cycles present in WLIs were missing in WMI dams. Hypothalamic transcript levels of the circadian rhythm-related gene Lysine Demethylase 5A (Kdm5a), period 2 (Per2), and the maternal behavior-related oxytocin receptor (Oxtr), vasopressin (Avp), and vasopressin receptor 1a (Avpr1a) were significantly greater in the post-weaning WMI dams at PPD 24 compared to those of WLIs, and also to those of WMI dams whose litter died before PPD 5. Expression correlation amongst genes differed in WLI and WMI dams and between the two time-points postpartum, suggesting genetic and litter-survival differences between these strains affect transcript levels. These data demonstrate that the genetically close, but behaviorally disparate WMI and WLI strains would be suitable for investigating the underlying genetic basis of postpartum behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number589967
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - Oct 22 2020


  • Wistar Kyoto More Immobile
  • lysine demethylase 5A
  • oxytocin receptor
  • period 2
  • vasopressin
  • vasopressin receptor 1a

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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