October 26, 2020

Prenatal Methadone Exposure Disrupts Behavioral Development and Alters Motor Neuron Intrinsic Properties and Local Circuitry

Despite the rising prevalence of methadone treatment in pregnant women with opioid use disorder, the effects of methadone on neurobehavioral development remain unclear. We developed a translational mouse model of prenatal methadone exposure (PME) that resembles the typical pattern of opioid use by pregnant women who first use oxycodone then switch to methadone maintenance pharmacotherapy, and subsequently become pregnant while maintained on methadone. We investigated the effects of PME on physical development, sensorimotor behavior, and motor neuron properties using a multidisciplinary approach of physical, biochemical, and behavioral assessments along with brain slice electrophysiology and in vivo magnetic resonance imaging. PME produced substantial impairments in offspring physical growth, activity in an open field, and sensorimotor milestone acquisition which were associated with alterations in motor neuron functioning and connectivity. The present study adds to the limited work examining PME by providing a comprehensive, translationally relevant characterization of how PME disrupts offspring development.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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