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Pharmacol Ther. 2015 May;149:213-26. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2015.01.001. Epub 2015 Jan 4.

The poly(I:C)-induced maternal immune activation model in preclinical neuropsychiatric drug discovery.

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Department of Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
Department of Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria. Electronic address:


Increasing epidemiological and experimental evidence implicates gestational infections as one important factor involved in the pathogenesis of several neuropsychiatric disorders. Corresponding preclinical model systems based upon maternal immune activation (MIA) by treatment of the pregnant female have been developed. These MIA animal model systems have been successfully used in basic and translational research approaches, contributing to the investigation of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. The present article focuses on the application of a specific MIA rodent paradigm, based upon treatment of the gestating dam with the viral mimic polyinosinic-polycytidilic acid (Poly(I:C)), a synthetic analog of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) which activates the Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) pathway. Important advantages and constraints of this animal model will be discussed, specifically in light of gestational infection as one vulnerability factor contributing to the complex etiology of mood and psychotic disorders, which are likely the result of intricate multi-level gene√óenvironment interactions. Improving our currently incomplete understanding of the molecular pathomechanistic principles underlying these disorders is a prerequisite for the development of alternative therapeutic approaches which are critically needed in light of the important drawbacks and limitations of currently available pharmacological treatment options regarding efficacy and side effects. The particular relevance of the Poly(I:C) MIA model for the discovery of novel drug targets for symptomatic and preventive therapeutic strategies in mood and psychotic disorders is highlighted in this review article.


Animal model; Depression; Maternal immune activation; Polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (Poly(I:C)); Schizophrenia

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