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J Neurochem. 2012 Mar;120(6):964-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07634.x. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Exposure of foetal neural progenitor cells to IL-1β impairs their proliferation and alters their differentiation - a role for maternal inflammation?

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Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, Biosciences Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


During pregnancy, activation of the maternal immune system results in inflammation in the foetal nervous system. The causative agents are pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleukin-1β (IL-1β), produced by the foetus. In this study, we examine the effect of IL-1β on the proliferation and differentiation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) to better understand its potential effects on the developing brain. We find that the IL-1β receptor (IL-1R1) is expressed in the ventral mesencephalon of the developing brain. Furthermore, IL-1R1 is expressed on Nestin-positive, Sox-2-positive NPCs. IL-1β treatment reduced the numbers of proliferating NPCs, an effect prevented by the IL-1R1 receptor antagonist. LDH and MTT assays, and western blot analysis for cleaved caspase 3 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, confirmed that this was not due to an increase in cell death but rather an induction of differentiation. To further study the effects of IL-1β on cell fate determination, we differentiated NPCs in the presence and absence of IL-1β. Il-1β promoted gliogenesis and inhibited neurogenesis, an effect that required p38-MAPK kinase signalling. In summary, these data show that exposure of NPCs to IL-1β affects their development. This necessitates an examination of the consequences that maternal immune system activation during pregnancy has on the cellular architecture of the developing brain.

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