Effects of early-life stress on peripheral and central mitochondria in male mice across ages

S. R. Ruigrok, K. Yim, T. L. Emmerzaal, B. Geenen, N. Stöberl, J. L. den Blaauwen, M. R. Abbink, A. J. Kiliaan, E. M. van Schothorst, T. Kozicz, A. Korosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to early-life stress (ES) increases the vulnerability to develop metabolic diseases as well as cognitive dysfunction, but the specific biological underpinning of the ES-induced programming is unknown. Metabolic and cognitive disorders are often comorbid, suggesting possible converging underlying pathways. Mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in both metabolic diseases and cognitive dysfunction and chronic stress impairs mitochondrial functioning. However, if and how mitochondria are impacted by ES and whether they are implicated in the ES-induced programming remains to be determined. ES was applied by providing mice with limited nesting and bedding material from postnatal day (P)2-P9, and metabolic parameters, cognitive functions and multiple aspects of mitochondria biology (i.e. mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) complex activity, mitochondrial DNA copy number, expression of genes relevant for mitochondrial function, and the antioxidant capacity) were studied in muscle, hypothalamus and hippocampus at P9 and late adulthood (10–12 months of age). We show that ES altered bodyweight (gain), adiposity and glucose levels at P9, but not in late adulthood. At this age, however, ES exposure led to cognitive impairments. ES affected peripheral and central mitochondria in an age-dependent manner. At P9, both muscle and hypothalamic ETC activity were affected by ES, while in hippocampus, ES altered the expression of genes involved in fission and antioxidant defence. In adulthood, alterations in ETC complex activity were observed in the hypothalamus specifically, whereas in muscle and hippocampus ES affected the expression of genes involved in mitophagy and fission, respectively. Our study demonstrates that ES affects peripheral and central mitochondria biology throughout life, thereby uncovering a converging mechanism that might contribute to the ES-induced vulnerability for both metabolic diseases and cognitive dysfunction, which could serve as a novel target for intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105346
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Cognition
  • Early-life stress
  • Metabolism
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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