Baseline immunoreactivity before pregnancy and poly(I:C) dose combine to dictate susceptibility and resilience of offspring to maternal immune activation

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Aug:88:619-630. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.04.061. Epub 2020 Apr 23.


Despite the potential of rodent models of maternal immune activation (MIA) to identify new biomarkers and therapeutic interventions for a range of psychiatric disorders, current approaches using these models ignore two of the most important aspects of this risk factor for human disease: (i) most pregnancies are resilient to maternal viral infection and (ii) susceptible pregnancies can lead to different combinations of phenotypes in offspring. Here, we report two new sources of variability-the baseline immunoreactivity (BIR) of isogenic females prior to pregnancy and differences in immune responses in C57BL/6 dams across vendors-that contribute to resilience and susceptibility to distinct combinations of behavioral and biological outcomes in offspring. Similar to the variable effects of human maternal infection, MIA in mice does not cause disease-related phenotypes in all pregnancies and a combination of poly(I:C) dose and BIR predicts susceptibility and resilience of pregnancies to aberrant repetitive behaviors and alterations in striatal protein levels in offspring. Even more surprising is that the intermediate levels of BIR and poly(I:C) dose are most detrimental to offspring, with higher BIR and poly(I:C) doses conferring resilience to measured phenotypes in offspring. Importantly, we identify the BIR of female mice as a biomarker before pregnancy that predicts which dams will be most at risk as well as biomarkers in the brains of newborn offspring that correlate with changes in repetitive behaviors. Together, our results highlight considerations for optimizing MIA protocols to enhance rigor and reproducibility and reveal new factors that drive susceptibility of some pregnancies and resilience of others to MIA-induced abnormalities in offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Poly I-C
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Poly I-C