Transcriptomic profiling of reward and sensory brain areas in perinatal fentanyl exposed juvenile mice

Jimmy Olusakin, Gautam Kumar, Mahashweta Basu, Cali A. Calarco, Megan E. Fox, Jason B. Alipio, Catherine Haga, Makeda D. Turner, Asaf Keller, Seth A. Ament, Mary Kay Lobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl increased ~300% in the last decade, including among women of reproductive ages. Adverse neonatal outcomes and long-term behavioral disruptions are associated with perinatal opioid exposure. Our previous work demonstrated that perinatal fentanyl exposed mice displayed enhanced negative affect and somatosensory circuit and behavioral disruptions during adolescence. However, little is known about molecular adaptations across brain regions that underlie these outcomes. We performed RNA sequencing across three reward and two sensory brain areas to study transcriptional programs in perinatal fentanyl exposed juvenile mice. Pregnant dams received 10 μg/ml fentanyl in the drinking water from embryonic day 0 (E0) through gestational periods until weaning at postnatal day 21 (P21). RNA was extracted from nucleus accumbens (NAc), prelimbic cortex (PrL), ventral tegmental area (VTA), somatosensory cortex (S1) and ventrobasal thalamus (VBT) from perinatal fentanyl exposed mice of both sexes at P35. RNA sequencing was performed, followed by analysis of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and gene co-expression networks. Transcriptome analysis revealed DEGs and gene modules significantly associated with exposure to perinatal fentanyl in a sex-wise manner. The VTA had the most DEGs, while robust gene enrichment occurred in NAc. Genes enriched in mitochondrial respiration were pronounced in NAc and VTA of perinatal fentanyl exposed males, extracellular matrix (ECM) and neuronal migration enrichment were pronounced in NAc and VTA of perinatal fentanyl exposed males, while genes associated with vesicular cycling and synaptic signaling were markedly altered in NAc of perinatal fentanyl exposed female mice. In sensory areas from perinatal fentanyl exposed females, we found alterations in mitochondrial respiration, synaptic and ciliary organization processes. Our findings demonstrate distinct transcriptomes across reward and sensory brain regions, with some showing discordance between sexes. These transcriptome adaptations may underlie structural, functional, and behavioral changes observed in perinatal fentanyl exposed mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1724-1734
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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