Effects of maternal immune activation on gene expression patterns in the fetal brain

K. A. Garbett, E. Y. Hsiao, S. Kálmán, P. H. Patterson, K. Mirnics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


We are exploring the mechanisms underlying how maternal infection increases the risk for schizophrenia and autism in the offspring. Several mouse models of maternal immune activation (MIA) were used to examine the immediate effects of MIA induced by influenza virus, poly(I:C) and interleukin IL-6 on the fetal brain transcriptome. Our results indicate that all three MIA treatments lead to strong and common gene expression changes in the embryonic brain. Most notably, there is an acute and transient upregulation of the α, Β and γ crystallin gene family. Furthermore, levels of crystallin gene expression are correlated with the severity of MIA as assessed by placental weight. The overall gene expression changes suggest that the response to MIA is a neuroprotective attempt by the developing brain to counteract environmental stress, but at a cost of disrupting typical neuronal differentiation and axonal growth. We propose that this cascade of events might parallel the mechanisms by which environmental insults contribute to the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere98
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • brain
  • crystallin
  • gene expression
  • maternal immune activation
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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