Restoring prefrontal cortical excitation-inhibition balance with cannabidiol ameliorates neurobehavioral abnormalities in a mouse model of neurodevelopmental disorders

Neuropharmacology. 2023 Dec 1:240:109715. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2023.109715. Epub 2023 Sep 14.


Maternal immune activation (MIA) resulting from viral infections during pregnancy is linked to increased rates of neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. However, the mechanisms underlying MIA-induced neurobehavioral abnormalities remain unclear. Here, we used a poly (I:C)-induced MIA mouse model to demonstrate the presence of multiple behavioral deficits in male offspring. Through RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), we identified significant upregulation of genes involved in axonogenesis, synaptogenesis, and glutamatergic synaptic neurotransmission in the mPFC of MIA mice. Electrophysiological analyses further revealed an excitatory-inhibitory (E/I) synaptic imbalance in mPFC pyramidal neurons, leading to hyperactivity in this brain region. Cannabidiol (CBD) effectively alleviated the behavioral abnormalities observed in MIA offspring by reducing glutamatergic transmission and enhancing GABAergic neurotransmission of mPFC pyramidal neurons. Activation of GPR55 by lipid lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI), an endogenous GPR55 agonist, specifically in the mPFC of healthy animals led to MIA-associated behavioral phenotypes, which CBD could effectively reverse. Moreover, we found that a GPR55 antagonist can mimic CBD's beneficial effects, indicating that CBD's therapeutic effects are mediated via the LPI-GPR55 signaling pathway. Therefore, we identified mPFC as a primary node of a neural network that mediates MIA-induced behavioral abnormalities in offspring. Our work provides insights into the mechanisms underlying the developmental consequences of MIA and identifies CBD as a promising therapeutic approach to alleviate these effects.

Keywords: Cannabidiol; Excitatory/inhibitory balance; Maternal immune activation; Neurobehavioral abnormalities; Prefrontal cortex.