Perturbed neurochemical and microstructural organization in a mouse model of prenatal opioid exposure: A multi-modal magnetic resonance study
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Methadone-based treatment for pregnant women with opioid use disorder is quite prevalent in the clinical environment. A number of clinical and animal model-based studies have reported cognitive deficits in infants prenatally exposed to methadone-based opioid treatments. However, the long-term impact of prenatal opioid exposure (POE) on pathophysiological mechanisms that govern neurodevelopmental impairment is not well understood. Using a translationally relevant mouse model of prenatal methadone exposure (PME), the aim of this study is to investigate the role of cerebral biochemistry and its possible association with regional microstructural organization in PME offspring. To understand these effects, 8-week-old male offspring with PME (n = 7) and prenatal saline exposure (PSE) (n = 7) were scanned in vivo on 9.4 Tesla small animal scanner. Single voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) was performed in the right dorsal striatum (RDS) region using a short echo time (TE) Stimulated Echo Acquisition Method (STEAM) sequence. Neurometabolite spectra from the RDS was first corrected for tissue T1 relaxation and then absolute quantification was performed using the unsuppressed water spectra. High-resolution in vivo diffusion MRI (dMRI) for region of interest (ROI) based microstructural quantification was also performed using a multi-shell dMRI sequence. Cerebral microstructure was characterized using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and Bingham-neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (Bingham-NODDI). MRS results in the RDS showed significant decrease in N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), taurine (tau), glutathione (GSH), total creatine (tCr) and glutamate (Glu) concentration levels in PME, compared to PSE group. In the same RDS region, mean orientation dispersion index (ODI) and intracellular volume fraction (VFIC) demonstrated positive associations with tCr in PME group. ODI also exhibited significant positive association with Glu levels in PME offspring. Significant reduction in major neurotransmitter metabolites and energy metabolism along with strong association between the neurometabolites and perturbed regional microstructural complexity suggest a possible impaired neuroadaptation trajectory in PME offspring which could be persistent even into late adolescence and early adulthood.