RATIONALEPerinatal exposure of rats to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) produces sensory and social abnormalities paralleling those seen in autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, the possible mechanism(s) by which this exposure produces behavioral abnormalities is unclear.OBJECTIVEWe hypothesized that the lasting effects of neonatal SSRI exposure are a consequence of abnormal stimulation of 5-HT1A and/or 5-HT1B receptors during brain development. We examined whether such stimulation would result in lasting sensory and social deficits in rats in a manner similar to SSRIs using both direct agonist stimulation of receptors as well as selective antagonism of these receptors during SSRI exposure.METHODSMale and female rat pups were treated from postnatal days 8 to 21. In Experiment 1, pups received citalopram (20 mg/kg/day), saline, (±)-8-hydroxy-dipropylaminotetralin hydrobromide (8-OH-DPAT; 0.5 mg/kg/day) or 7-trifluoromethyl-4(4-methyl-1-piperazinyl)-pyrrolo[1,2-a]-quinoxaline dimaleate (CGS-12066B; 10 mg/kg/day). In Experiment 2, a separate cohort of pups received citalopram (20 mg/kg/day), or saline which was combined with either N-[2-[4-(2-methoxyphenyl)-1-piperazinyl]ethyl]-N-2-pyridinylcyclo-hexanecarboxamide maleate (WAY-100635; 0.6 mg/kg/day) or N-[4-methoxy-3-(4-methyl-1-piperazinyl)phenyl]-2'-methyl-4'-(5-methyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-3-yl)-1-1'-biphenyl-4-carboxamide (GR-127935; 6 mg/kg/day) or vehicle. Rats were then tested in paradigms designed to assess sensory and social response behaviors at different time points during development.RESULTSDirect and indirect neonatal stimulation of 5-HT1A or 5-HT1B receptors disrupts sensory processing, produces neophobia, increases stereotypic activity, and impairs social interactions in manner analogous to that observed in ASD.CONCLUSIONIncreased stimulation of 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptors plays a significant role in the production of lasting social and sensory deficits in adult animals exposed as neonates to SSRIs.