1 September 2012
Viral infections during pregnancy significantly increase the risk for psychological pathologies like schizophrenia in the offspring. One of the main morphological hallmarks of schizophrenia is a reduced size of the hippocampus. Since new neurons are produced in this particular brain compartment throughout life, it might be possible that low neurogenesis levels triggered by a maternal viral infection contribute to developmental deficits of the hippocampus. We injected polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C) in pregnant C57Bl/6 mice to stimulate an anti-viral response through TLR3 and examined gene expressions in the neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs) of the offspring at different ages. Additionally, we treated adult NPC lines with Poly I:C to investigate its direct effect. We could show for the first time that TLR3 and its downstream effector molecule IRF3 are expressed in adult NPCs. Poly I:C treatment in vitro and in vivo led to the regulation of proliferation and genes involved in antiviral response, migration, and survival. These findings indicate that NPCs of the fetus are able to react towards an in utero immune response, and thus, changes in the neuronal stem cell pool can contribute to the development of neurological diseases like schizophrenia.