Maternal immune activation alters visual acuity and retinogeniculate axon pruning in offspring mice

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Oct;89:518-523. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.08.017. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been found to have a variety of sensory processing deficits. Here we report that maternal immune activation, a known factor for ASD, alters visual acuity in the offspring mice. By intraperitoneally injecting polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (polyI:C) to induce maternal immune activation during embryonic days 10 to 14, we found that polyI:C treatment impairs visual acuity in young adult offspring mice as examined by their optomotor responses. Concurrently, polyI:C treatment suppresses retinogeniculate axon elimination, resulting in a high fraction of weak optical fibers innervating the relay neurons in the visual thalamus. The results link in-utero maternal inflammation to defective optical fiber pruning and arrested developmental strengthening of single optic fibers which may underlie impaired visual acuity.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Maternal immune activation; Retinogeniculate axon pruning; Visual acuity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Visual Acuity