Gender-Dependent Effects of Maternal Immune Activation on the Behavior of Mouse Offspring.
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by two core symptoms; impaired social interactions and communication, and ritualistic or repetitive behaviors.
Both epidemiological and biochemical evidence suggests that a subpopulation of autistics may be linked to immune perturbations that occurred during fetal development.
These findings have given rise to an animal model, called the “maternal immune activation” model, whereby the offspring from female rodents who were subjected to an immune stimulus during early or mid-pregnancy are studied. Here, C57BL/6 mouse dams were treated mid-gestation with saline, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to mimic a bacterial infection, or polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (Poly IC) to mimic a viral infection.
Autism-associated behaviors were examined in the adult offspring of the treated dams. Behavioral tests were conducted to assess motor activity, exploration in a novel environment, sociability, and repetitive behaviors, and data analyses were carried independently on male and female mice. We observed a main treatment effect whereby male offspring from Poly IC-treated dams showed reduced motor activity. In the marble burying test of repetitive behavior, male offspring but not female offspring from both LPS and Poly IC-treated mothers showed increased marble burying.
Our findings indicate that offspring from mothers subjected to immune stimulation during gestation show a gender-specific increase in stereotyped repetitive behavior.