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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Jun 20;220(1):55-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.12.040. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Individual differences in maternal response to immune challenge predict offspring behavior: contribution of environmental factors.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 231 Albert Sabin Way, Cincinnati, OH 45267, USA.


Maternal infection during pregnancy elevates risk for schizophrenia and related disorders in offspring. Converging evidence suggests the maternal inflammatory response mediates the interaction between maternal infection, altered brain development, and behavioral outcome. The extent to which individual differences in the maternal response to immune challenge influence the development of these abnormalities is unknown. The present study investigated the impact of individual differences in maternal response to the viral mimic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) on offspring behavior. We observed significant variability in body weight alterations of pregnant rats induced by administration of poly I:C on gestational day 14. Furthermore, the presence or absence of maternal weight loss predicted MK-801 and amphetamine stimulated locomotor abnormalities in offspring. MK-801 stimulated locomotion was altered in offspring of all poly I:C treated dams; however, the presence or absence of maternal weight loss resulted in decreased and modestly increased locomotion, respectively. Adult offspring of poly I:C treated dams that lost weight exhibited significantly decreased amphetamine stimulated locomotion, while offspring of poly I:C treated dams without weight loss performed similarly to vehicle controls. Social isolation and increased maternal age predicted weight loss in response to poly I:C but not vehicle injection. In combination, these data identify environmental factors associated with the maternal response to immune challenge and functional outcome of offspring exposed to maternal immune activation.

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