Stress in Puberty Unmasks Latent Neuropathological Consequences of Prenatal Immune Activation in Mice

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Science  01 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6123, pp. 1095-1099
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228261

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Psychopathologies that cannot be explained by simple genetic or environmental circumstances may sometimes result from complex interplay between multiple inputs. Giovanoli et al. (p. 1095) analyzed the interactions between prenatal and postnatal stressors in mice to see what synergies give rise to psychopathologies in the adult mice. The results suggest that susceptibilities arise when mice are exposed to prenatal infection and also exposed to stressors around puberty. Stressors delivered later in adolescence did not seem to produce the same susceptibility. Although the mechanisms that impose the delay between stressors and psychopathology remain obscure, the timing and sequence of the triggers hint at possible cellular causes.


Prenatal infection and exposure to traumatizing experiences during peripuberty have each been associated with increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders. Evidence is lacking for the cumulative impact of such prenatal and postnatal environmental challenges on brain functions and vulnerability to psychiatric disease. Here, we show in a translational mouse model that combined exposure to prenatal immune challenge and peripubertal stress induces synergistic pathological effects on adult behavioral functions and neurochemistry. We further demonstrate that the prenatal insult markedly increases the vulnerability of the pubescent offspring to brain immune changes in response to stress. Our findings reveal interactions between two adverse environmental factors that have individually been associated with neuropsychiatric disease and support theories that mental illnesses with delayed onsets involve multiple environmental hits.

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