Maternal immune activation targeted to a window of parvalbumin interneuron development improves spatial working memory: Implications for autism

Jay P. Nakamura, Brendan Gillespie, Andrew Gibbons, Emily J. Jaehne, Xin Du, Aaron Chan, Anna Schroeder, Maarten van den Buuse, Suresh Sundram, Rachel A. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Maternal immune activation (MIA) increases risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring later in life through unknown causal mechanisms. Growing evidence implicates parvalbumin-containing GABAergic interneurons as a key target in rodent MIA models. We targeted a specific neurodevelopmental window of parvalbumin interneurons in a mouse MIA model to examine effects on spatial working memory, a key domain in ASD that can manifest as either impairments or improvements both clinically and in animal models. Pregnant dams received three consecutive intraperitoneal injections of Polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C), 5 mg/kg) at gestational days 13, 14 and 15. Spatial working memory was assessed in young adult offspring using touchscreen operant chambers and the Trial-Unique Non-matching to Location (TUNL) task. Anxiety, novelty seeking and short-term memory were assessed using Elevated Plus Maze (EPM) and Y-maze novelty preference tasks. Fluorescent immunohistochemistry was used to assess hippocampal parvalbumin cell density, intensity and co-expression with perineuronal nets. qPCR was used to assess the expression of putatively implicated gene pathways. MIA targeting a window of parvalbumin interneuron development increased spatial working memory performance on the TUNL touchscreen task which was not influenced by anxiety or novelty seeking behaviour. The model reduced fetal mRNA levels of Gad1 and adult hippocampal mRNA levels of Pvalb and the distribution of low intensity parvalbumin interneurons was altered. We speculate a specific timing window for parvalbumin interneuron development underpins the apparently paradoxical improved spatial working memory phenotype found both across several rodent models of autism and clinically in ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-349
Number of pages11
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Autism
  • Immune activation
  • Parvalbumin
  • Poly(I:C)
  • Spatial working memory
  • Touchscreen
  • TUNL

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