Infection during pregnancy (i.e., prenatal infection) increases the risk of psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism in the adult offspring. The present experiments examined the effects of prenatal immune challenge on behavior in three paradigms relevant to these disorders: prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response, locomotor responses to an unfamiliar environment and the N-methyl-d-aspartate antagonist MK-801, and three forms of recognition memory. Pregnant Long-Evans rats were exposed to the viral mimetic polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (PolyI:C; 4 mg/kg, i.v.) on gestational day 15. Offspring were tested for PPI and locomotor activity before puberty (postnatal days (PNDs)35 and 36) and during young adulthood (PNDs 56 and 57). Four prepulse-pulse intervals (30, 50, 80, and 140 ms) were employed in the PPI test. Recognition memory testing was performed using three different spontaneous novelty recognition tests (object, object location, and object-in-place recognition) after PND 60. Regardless of sex, offspring of PolyI:C-treated dams showed disrupted PPI at 50-, 80-, and 140-ms prepulse-pulse intervals. In the prepubescent rats, we observed prepulse facilitation for the 30-ms prepulse-pulse interval trials that was selectively retained in the adult PolyI:C-treated offspring. Locomotor responses to MK-801 were significantly reduced before puberty, whereas responses to an unfamiliar environment were increased in young adulthood. Both male and female PolyI:C-treated offspring showed intact object and object location recognition memory, whereas male PolyI:C-treated offspring displayed significantly impaired object-in-place recognition memory. Females were unable to perform the object-in-place test. The present results demonstrate that prenatal immune challenge during mid/late gestation disrupts PPI and locomotor behavior. In addition, the selective impairment of object-in-place recognition memory suggests tasks that depend on prefrontal cortex may be particularly vulnerable following prenatal immune challenge.
Copyright © 2011 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.