Regardless of genotype, offspring of VIP-deficient female mice exhibit developmental delays and deficits in social behavior.
Pharmacological studies indicate that vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) may be necessary for normal embryonic development in the mouse. For example, VIP antagonist treatment before embryonic day 11 resulted in developmental delays, growth restriction, modified adult brain chemistry and reduced social behavior. Here, developmental milestones, growth, and social behaviors of neonates of VIP-deficient mothers (VIP +/-) mated to VIP +/- males were compared with the offspring of wild type mothers (VIP +/+) mated to VIP +/+ and +/- males, to assess the contributions of both maternal and offspring VIP genotype. Regardless of their own genotype, all offsprings of VIP-deficient mothers exhibited developmental delays. No delays were seen in the offspring of wild type mothers, regardless of their own genotype. Body weights were significantly reduced in offspring of VIP-deficient mothers, with VIP null (-/-) the most affected. Regardless of genotype, all offspring of VIP-deficient mothers expressed reduced maternal affiliation compared with wild type offspring of wild type mothers; +/- offspring of wild type mothers did not differ in maternal affiliation from their wild type littermates. Play behavior was significantly reduced in all offsprings of VIP-deficient mothers. Maternal behavior did not differ between wild type and VIP-deficient mothers, and cross-fostering of litters did not change offspring development, indicating that offspring deficits were induced prenatally. This study illustrated that the VIP status of a pregnant mouse had a greater influence on the growth, development and behavior of her offspring than the VIP genotype of the offspring themselves. Deficiencies were apparent in +/+, +/- and -/- offspring born to VIP-deficient mothers; no deficiencies were apparent in +/- offspring born to normal mothers. These results underscore the significant contribution of the uterine environment to normal development and indicate a potential usefulness of the VIP knockout mouse in furthering the understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders with social behavior deficits such as autism.
International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience