Maternal immune activation alters behavior in adult offspring, with subtle changes in the cortical transcriptome and epigenome

Caroline M. Connor, Aslihan Dincer, Juerg Straubhaar, Janina R. Galler, Isaac B. Houston, Schahram Akbarian

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83 Scopus citations


Maternal immune activation during prenatal development, including treatment with the viral RNA mimic, polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidilic acid (poly IC), serves as a widely used animal model to induce behavioral deficits reminiscent of schizophrenia and related disease. Here, we report that massive cytokine activation after a single dose of poly IC in the prenatal period is associated with lasting working memory deficits in adult offspring. To explore whether dysregulated gene expression in cerebral cortex, contributes to cognitive dysfunction, we profiled the cortical transcriptome, and in addition, mapped the genome-wide distribution of trimethylated histone H3-lysine 4 (H3K4me3), an epigenetic mark sharply regulated at the 5' end of transcriptional units. However, deep sequencing-based H3K4me3 mapping and mRNA profiling by microarray did not reveal significant alterations in mature cerebral cortex after poly IC exposure at embryonic days E17.5 or E12.5. At a small set of genes (including suppressor of cytokine signaling . Socs3), H3K4me3 was sensitive to activation of cytokine signaling in primary cultures from fetal forebrain but adult cortex of saline- and poly IC-exposed mice did not show significant differences. A limited set of transcription start sites (TSS), including . Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (. Disc1), a schizophrenia risk gene often implicated in gene-environment interaction models, showed altered H3K4me3 after prenatal poly IC but none of these differences survived after correcting for multiple comparisons. We conclude that prenatal poly IC is associated with cognitive deficits later in life, but without robust alterations in epigenetic regulation of gene expression in the cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromatin
  • Epigenetic
  • Epigenome
  • Maternal immune activation
  • Nucleosome
  • Psychosis
  • Transcription start site
  • Transcriptome


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