Maternal immune activation causes age- and region-specific changes in brain cytokines in offspring throughout development.
Maternal infection is a risk factor for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SZ). Indeed, modeling this risk factor in mice through maternal immune activation (MIA) causes ASD- and SZ-like neuropathologies and behaviors in the offspring. Although MIA upregulates pro-inflammatory cytokines in the fetal brain, whether MIA leads to long-lasting changes in brain cytokines during postnatal development remains unknown.
Here, we tested this possibility by measuring protein levels of 23 cytokines in the blood and three brain regions from offspring of poly(I:C)- and saline-injected mice at five postnatal ages using multiplex arrays. Most cytokines examined are present in sera and brains throughout development. MIA induces changes in the levels of many cytokines in the brains and sera of offspring in a region- and age-specific manner.
These MIA-induced changes follow a few, unexpected and distinct patterns. In frontal and cingulate cortices, several, mostly pro-inflammatory, cytokines are elevated at birth, followed by decreases during periods of synaptogenesis and plasticity, and increases again in the adult. Cytokines are also altered in postnatal hippocampus, but in a pattern distinct from the other regions. The MIA-induced changes in brain cytokines do not correlate with changes in serum cytokines from the same animals. Finally, these MIA-induced cytokine changes are not accompanied by breaches in the blood-brain barrier, immune cell infiltration or increases in microglial density. Together, these data indicate that MIA leads to long-lasting, region-specific changes in brain cytokines in offspring-similar to those reported for ASD and SZ-that may alter CNS development and behavior.
This follows a raft of solid research that is focused on the immune system in ASD, perhaps accounting for some 17 – 50% of cases.
Cluster analysis of autistic patients based on principal pathogenetic components.
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