The behavior of female rats changes profoundly as they become mothers. The brain region that plays a central role in this regulation is the preoptic area, and lesions in this area eliminates maternal behaviors in rodents. The molecular background of the behavioral changes has not been established yet; therefore, in the present study, we applied proteomics to compare protein level changes associated with maternal care in the rat preoptic area. Using 2-dimensional fluorescence gel electrophoresis followed by identification of altered spots with mass spectrometry, 12 proteins were found to be significantly increased, and 6 proteins showed a significantly reduced level in mothers. These results show some similarities with a previous proteomics study of the maternal medial prefrontal cortex and genomics approaches applied to the preoptic area. Gene ontological analysis suggested that most altered proteins are involved in glucose metabolism and neuroplasticity. These proteins may support the maintenance of increased neuronal activity in the preoptic area, and morphological changes in preoptic neuronal circuits are known to take place in mothers. An increase in the level of alpha-crystallin B chain (Cryab) was confirmed by Western blotting. This small heat shock protein may also contribute to maintaining the increased activity of preoptic neurons by stabilizing protein structures. Common regulator and target analysis of the altered proteins suggested a role of prolactin in the molecular changes in the preoptic area. These results first identified the protein level changes in the maternal preoptic area. The altered proteins contribute to the maintenance of maternal behaviors and may also be relevant to postpartum depression, which can occur as a molecular level maladaptation to motherhood.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience