Behaviour and hippocampus-specific changes in spiny mouse neonates after treatment of the mother with the viral-mimetic Poly I:C at mid-pregnancy.
Ritchie Centre, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Clayton, Melbourne 3168, Australia.
Epidemiological studies have suggested a link between prenatal exposure to bacterial or viral infections and subsequent development of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Animal models to study the prenatal origin of such outcomes of pregnancy have largely used conventional rodents which are immature at birth compared to the human neonate, and doses of the infective agent (i.e., lipopolysaccharide, Poly I:C) have been large enough to cause sickness behaviour in the mother.
In this study we have used the precocial spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus) whose offspring have completed organogenesis at birth, and a single subcutaneous injection of a low (0.5mg/kg) dose of polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidilic acid (Poly I:C) at mid gestation (20days, term is 39days).
The treatment had no effect on maternal, fetal or neonatal survival, or postnatal growth of the offspring. However, offspring showed significant impairments in non-spatial memory and learning tasks, and motor activity. Brain histology examined at 1 and 100days of age revealed significant decreases in reelin, increased GFAP expression, and increased numbers of activated microglia, specifically in the hippocampus.
This study provides evidence that a prenatal subclinical infection can have profound effects on brain development that are long-lasting.