Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism

Date:
September 26, 2013
Source:
University of California - Davis Health System
Summary:
Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, an animal study suggests. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.

Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, an animal study suggests. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.
Credit: 3dvin / Fotolia

Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, researchers with the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Neurology have found. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.

The research, "MHCI Requires MEF2 Transcription Factors to Negatively Regulate Synapse Density during Development and in Disease," is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The study's senior author is Kimberley McAllister, professor in the Center for Neuroscience with appointments in the departments of Neurology and Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

"This is the first evidence that neurons in the developing brain of newborn offspring are altered by maternal immune activation," McAllister said. "Until now, very little has been known about how maternal immune activation leads to autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia-like pathophysiology and behaviors in the offspring."

The study was conducted in mice and rats and compared the brains of the offspring of rodents whose immune systems had been activated and those of animals whose immune systems had not been activated. The pups of animals that were exposed to viral infection had much higher brain levels of immune molecules known as the major histocompatibility complex I (MHCI) molecules.

"This is the first evidence that MHCI levels on the surface of young cortical neurons in offspring are altered by maternal immune activation," McAllister said.

The researchers found that the high MHCI levels impaired the ability of the neurons from the newborn mice's brains to form synapses, the tiny gaps separating brain cells through which signals are transmitted. Earlier research has suggested that ASD and schizophrenia may be caused by changes in the development of connections in the brain, especially the cerebral cortex.

The researchers experimentally reduced MHCI to normal levels in neurons from offspring following maternal immune activation.

"Remarkably, synapse density returned to normal levels in those neurons," McAllister said.

"These results indicate that maternal immune activation does indeed alter connectivity during prenatal development, causing a profound deficit in the ability of cortical neurons to form synapses that is caused by changes in levels of MHCI on the neurons," she said.

MHCI did not work alone to limit the development of synapses. In a series of experiments, the UC Davis researchers determined that MHCI interacted with calcineurin and myocyte enhancer factor-2 (Mef2), a protein that is a critical determinant of neuronal specialization.

MHCI, calcineurin and Mef2 form a biological signaling pathway that had not been previously identified. McAllister's team showed that in the offspring of the maternal immune activation mothers, this novel signaling pathway was much more active than it was in the offspring of non-MIA animals.

"This finding provides a potential mechanism linking maternal immune activation to disease-linked behaviors," McAllister said.

It also is a mechanism that may help McAllister and other scientists to develop diagnostic tests and eventually therapies to improve the lives of individuals with these neurodevelopmental disorders.

Other study authors are Bradford M. Elmer, Myka L. Estes and Stephanie L. Barrow, all of UC Davis.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. M. Elmer, M. L. Estes, S. L. Barrow, A. K. McAllister. MHCI Requires MEF2 Transcription Factors to Negatively Regulate Synapse Density during Development and in Disease. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 33 (34): 13791 DOI: 10.1523/%u200BJNEUROSCI.2366-13.2013

Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis Health System. "How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926204727.htm>.
University of California - Davis Health System. (2013, September 26). How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926204727.htm
University of California - Davis Health System. "How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926204727.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins