Periodic hypoxia, intermittent pain, and caffeine in male and female neonatal rats: Corticosterone, insulin resistance, and hepatic gene expression


Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center


Preterm infants experience multiple stressors including periodic neonatal hypoxia, maternal/caregiver separation, and acute pain from clinical procedures. Although neonatal hypoxia or interventional pain are associated with sexually dimorphic effects that may last into adulthood, the interaction of these common preterm stressors and with caffeine pretreatment remain unknown. We hypothesize that an interaction of acute neonatal hypoxia, isolation, and pain modeling the experience of the preterm infant will augment the acute stress response, and that caffeine routinely given to preterm infants will alter this response. Male and female rat pups were isolated and exposed to six cycles of periodic hypoxia (10% O2) or normoxia (room air control) and/or intermittent pain by administering needle pricks (or touch control) to the paw on postnatal (PD) days 1-4. An additional set of rat pups was pretreated with caffeine citrate (80 mg/kg IP) and studied on PD1. Plasma corticosterone, fasting glucose, and insulin were measured to calculate HOMA-IR (index of insulin resistance). Glucocorticoid-, insulin-, and caffeine-sensitive gene mRNAs were analyzed in the PD1 liver and hypothalamus to evaluate downstream markers of glucocorticoid action. Acute pain with periodic hypoxia led to a large increase in plasma corticosterone, which was attenuated by pretreatment with caffeine. Pain with periodic hypoxia led to a 10-fold increase in hepatic Per1 mRNA expression in males, which was attenuated with caffeine. The augmentation of corticosterone and HOMA-IR at PD1 after periodic hypoxia with pain suggests early intervention to attenuate the stress response may mitigate the programming effects of neonatal stress.

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