As part of the maternal adaptations to pregnancy, mice show a rapid, profound reduction in voluntary running wheel activity (RWA) as soon as pregnancy is achieved. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that prolactin, one of the first hormones to change secretion pattern following mating, is involved in driving this suppression of physical activity levels during pregnancy. We show that prolactin can acutely suppress RWA in virgin female mice, and that conditional deletion of prolactin receptors (Prlr) from either all forebrain neurons or from GABA neurons prevented the early pregnancy-induced suppression of RWA. Deletion of Prlr specifically from the medial preoptic area, a brain region associated with multiple homeostatic and behavioural roles including parental behaviour, completely abolished the early pregnancy-induced suppression of RWA. Our data demonstrate a key role for prolactin in suppressing voluntary physical activity during early pregnancy, highlighting a novel biological basis for reduced physical activity in pregnancy.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience