Exposure to early-life stress (ELS) increases risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes that emerge at different stages across the lifespan. Yet, how age interacts with ELS to impact the expression of specific phenotypes remains largely unknown. An established limited-bedding paradigm was used to induce ELS in mouse pups over the early postnatal period. Initial analyses focused on the hippocampus, based on documented sensitivity to ELS in humans and various animal models, and the large body of data reporting anatomical and physiological outcomes in this structure using this ELS paradigm. An unbiased discovery proteomics approach revealed distinct adaptations in the non-nuclear hippocampal proteome in male versus female offspring at two distinct developmental stages: juvenile and adult. Gene ontology and KEGG pathway analyses revealed significant enrichment in proteins associated with mitochondria and the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway in response to ELS in female hippocampus only. To determine whether the protein adaptations to ELS reflected altered function, mitochondrial respiration (driven through complexes II-IV) and complex I activity were measured in isolated hippocampal mitochondria using a Seahorse X96 Flux analyzer and immunocapture ELISA, respectively. ELS had no effect on basal respiration in either sex at either age. In contrast, ELS increased OXPHOS capacity in juvenile males and females, and reduced OXPHOS capacity in adult females but not adult males. A similar pattern of ELS-induced changes was observed for complex I activity. These data suggest that initial adaptations in juvenile hippocampus due to ELS were not sustained in adults. Mitochondrial adaptations to ELS were also exhibited peripherally by liver. Overall, the temporal distinctions in mitochondrial responses to ELS show that ELS-generated adaptations and outcomes are complex over the lifespan. This may contribute to differences in the timing of appearance of mental and physical disturbances, as well as potential sex differences that influence only select outcomes.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience