Differential effects of prenatal stress in two inbred strains of rats

T. Stöhr, D. Schulte Wermeling, T. Szuran, V. Pliska, A. Domeney, H. Welzl, I. Weiner, J. Feldon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The long-term effects of prenatal stress (three times daily restraint stress during the last week of gestation) on the behavioral response to stress, as assessed by novelty-induced locomotion, performance in the forced swim test, and the acquisition of a two-way active avoidance, were investigated in two inbred strains of rats, Fischer 344 (F344/NHsd/Zur) and Lewis (LEW/SsNHsd/Zur). Additional measures included birth weights, pain threshold on the hot plate, and basal and stress-induced corticosterone secretion. In all of the behavioral paradigms strain differences were found: LEW rats showed poorer acquisition of avoidance conditioning, displayed higher levels of activity on the open plate, less immobility time in the forced swim test, and lower pain thresholds in the hot-plate test compared with F344 rats, LEW rats had higher birth weights after prenatal stress, whereas F344 rats were lighter. Following prenatal stress the pattern of behavioral effects obtained in LEW rats in stress-related tests could be interpreted as improved coping abilities with stress, i.e., improved acquisition of active avoidance, less immobility in the forced swim test, and reduced novelty-induced locomotion. Prenatal stress was much less effective in inducing long-term behavioral changes in F344 rats, yielding only one effect namely enhanced novelty-induced locomotion in female F344 rats. Pain thresholds were increased as a consequence of prenatal stress, irrespective of strain and gender. Basal and stress-induced corticosterone release differed in the two strains with LEW rats showing less stress-induced corticosterone release. Prenatal stress did not, however, affect basal or stress-induced corticosterone release. The results suggest that prenatal stress exerts long-term effects on behavior, which depend on the genetic background.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-805
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998


  • Fischer rat
  • Gender differences
  • Genetic differences
  • HPA system
  • Lewis rat
  • Prenatal stress


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