Immune activation during pregnancy in rats leads to a postpubertal emergence of disrupted latent inhibition, dopaminergic hyperfunction, and altered limbic morphology in the offspring: a novel neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28(10):1778-89. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300248.


Prenatal exposure to infection is associated with increased liability to schizophrenia, and it is believed that such an association is mediated by the maternal immune response, in particular, the proinflammatory cytokines released by the maternal immune system, which may disrupt fetal brain development. Impaired capacity to ignore irrelevant stimuli is one of the central deficits in schizophrenia, and is manifested, among others, in loss of latent inhibition (LI), a phenomenon whereby repeated inconsequential pre-exposure to a stimulus impairs its subsequent capacity to signal significant consequences. We tested the effects of prenatal immune activation induced by peripheral administration of the synthetic cytokine releaser polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidilic acid (poly I : C) to pregnant dams, on LI in juvenile and adult offspring. Consistent with the characteristic maturational delay of schizophrenia, prenatal immune activation did not affect LI in the juvenile offspring, but led to LI disruption in adulthood. Both haloperidol (0.1 mg/kg) and clozapine (5 mg/kg) reinstated LI in the adult offspring. In addition, prenatal immune activation led to a postpubertal emergence of increased sensitivity to the locomotor-stimulating effects of amphetamine and increased in vitro striatal dopamine release, as well as to morphological alterations in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex in the adult offspring, consistent with the well-documented mesolimbic dopaminergic and temporolimbic pathology in schizophrenia. These results suggest that prenatal poly I : C administration may provide a neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia that reproduces a putative inducing factor; mimics the temporal course as well as some central abnormalities of the disorder; and predicts responsiveness to antipsychotic drugs. Neuropsychopharmacology (2003) 28, 1778-1789. advance online publication, 16 July 2003; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300248

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Amphetamine / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Clozapine / adverse effects
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • GABA Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Haloperidol / adverse effects
  • Hippocampus / abnormalities
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Interferon Inducers / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Poly I-C / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Interferon Inducers
  • Amphetamine
  • Clozapine
  • Haloperidol
  • Poly I-C
  • Dopamine