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Li Q, Cheung C, Wei R, Hui ES, Feldon J, Meyer U, Chung S, Chua SE, Sham PC, Wu EX, McAlonan GM. Prenatal immune challenge is an environmental risk factor for brain and behavior change relevant to schizophrenia: evidence from MRI in a mouse model. PLoS One. 2009 ; 4(7):e6354. Pubmed Abstract

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Primary Papers: Prenatal immune challenge is an environmental risk factor for brain and behavior change relevant to schizophrenia: evidence from MRI in a mouse model.

Comment by:  Paul Patterson
Submitted 31 July 2009
Posted 31 July 2009

This paper out of the University of Hong Kong adds a key piece of experimental data to our knowledge about the important schizophrenia risk factor, maternal infection. Epidemiological studies have shown that maternal infection by any of a variety of pathogens significantly increases the risk for schizophrenia in the offspring. This new work using MRI shows that activating the maternal immune system with the viral mimic poly(I:C) in a mouse model causes ventricular enlargement, a cardinal sign of schizophrenia, in the offspring. This not only provides experimental support for the epidemiological observations, but it further validates the poly(I:C) model. While there are several puzzling aspects to this paper (e.g., an expansion of the fourth ventricle was seen when poly(I:C) was administered at a later stage of pregnancy, and no changes in white or gray matter were observed), it should be noted that a similar finding of poly(I:C)-induced ventricle expansion has been reported in the rat model by Ina Weiner at several meetings (e.g., Piontkewitz et al., 2007), and in another new article (Piontkewitz et al., in press). Moreover, Li et al. used both voxel-based morphometry and region-of-interest methods of analysis in the quantification of ventricle size. Thus, it is likely that this important observation has general validity.

References:

Piontkewitz Y, Weiner I, Assaf Y (2007) Post-pubertal emergence of schizophrenia-like abnormalities following prenatal maternal immune system activation and their prevention: Modeling the disorder and its prodrome. Internl Brain Res Org Abstr SYM-25-03

Piontkewitz Y, Assaf Y, Weiner I. Clozapine administration in adolescence prevents post-pubertal emergence of brain structural pathology in an animal model of schizophrenia. Biol Psychiat, in press.

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