Our response to COVID-19

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Dr Adam Walker


Circulating epinephrine is not required for chronic stress to enhance metastasis.

Walker AK, Martelli D, Ziegler AI, Lambert GW, Phillips SE, Hill SJ, McAllen RM, Sloan EK

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire-But Who Is Lighting the Match? Bolstering Transcriptional Evidence for the Role of Nuclear Factor-κB in Neuroimmune Activation in Schizophrenia.

Murphy CE, Walker AK, Shannon Weickert C

Leucine competes with kynurenine for blood-to-brain transport and prevents lipopolysaccharide-induced depression-like behavior in mice.

Walker AK, Wing EE, Banks WA, Dantzer R

Low dose aspirin blocks breast cancer-induced cognitive impairment in mice.

Walker AK, Chang A, Ziegler AI, Dhillon HM, Vardy JL, Sloan EK

Mechanisms and Treatment for Cancer- and Chemotherapy-Related Cognitive Impairment in Survivors of Non-CNS Malignancies.

Chung NC, Walker AK, Dhillon HM, Vardy JL

Sickness behavior induced by cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a murine head and neck cancer model is associated with altered mitochondrial gene expression.

Vichaya EG, Molkentine JM, Vermeer DW, Walker AK, Feng R, Holder G, Luu K, Mason RM, Saligan L, Heijnen CJ, Kavelaars A, Mason KA, Lee JH, Dantzer R

The present study was undertaken to explore the possible mechanisms of the behavioral alterations that develop in response to cancer and to cancer therapy. For this purpose we used a syngeneic heterotopic mouse model of human papilloma virus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer in which cancer therapy is curative. Mice implanted or not with HPV+ tumor cells were exposed to sham treatment or a regimen of cisplatin and radiotherapy (chemoradiation). Sickness was measured by body weight loss and reduced food intake. Motivation was measured by burrowing, a highly prevalent species specific behavior. Tumor-bearing mice showed a gradual decrease in burrowing over time and increased brain and liver inflammatory cytokine mRNA expression by 28 days post tumor implantation. Chemoradiation administered to healthy mice resulted in a mild decrease in burrowing, body weight, and food intake. Chemoradiation in tumor-bearing mice decreased tumor growth and abrogated liver and brain inflammation, but failed to attenuate burrowing deficits. PCR array analysis of selected hypoxia and mitochondrial genes revealed that both the tumor and chemoradiation altered the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism within the liver and brain and increased expression of genes related to HIF-1α signaling within the brain. The most prominent changes in brain mitochondrial genes were noted in tumor-bearing mice treated with chemoradiation. These findings indicate that targeting mitochondrial dysfunction following cancer and cancer therapy may be a strategy for prevention of cancer-related symptoms.

Optimized Method for Untargeted Metabolomics Analysis of MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cells.

Peterson AL, Walker AK, Sloan EK, Creek DJ

Cancer cells often have dysregulated metabolism, which is largely characterized by the Warburg effect-an increase in glycolytic activity at the expense of oxidative phosphorylation-and increased glutamine utilization. Modern metabolomics tools offer an efficient means to investigate metabolism in cancer cells. Currently, a number of protocols have been described for harvesting adherent cells for metabolomics analysis, but the techniques vary greatly and they lack specificity to particular cancer cell lines with diverse metabolic and structural features. Here we present an optimized method for untargeted metabolomics characterization of MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer cells, which are commonly used to study metastatic breast cancer. We found that an approach that extracted all metabolites in a single step within the culture dish optimally detected both polar and non-polar metabolite classes with higher relative abundance than methods that involved removal of cells from the dish. We show that this method is highly suited to diverse applications, including the characterization of central metabolic flux by stable isotope labelling and differential analysis of cells subjected to specific pharmacological interventions.

β2-Adrenoceptors on tumor cells play a critical role in stress-enhanced metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer.

Chang A, Le CP, Walker AK, Creed SJ, Pon CK, Albold S, Carroll D, Halls ML, Lane JR, Riedel B, Ferrari D, Sloan EK

Chronic stress accelerates metastasis – the main cause of death in cancer patients – through the activation of β-adrenoceptors (βARs). We have previously shown that β2AR signaling in MDA-MB-231(HM) breast cancer cells, facilitates invadopodia formation and invasion in vitro. However, in the tumor microenvironment where many stromal cells also express βAR, the role of β2AR signaling in tumor cells in metastasis is unclear. Therefore, to investigate the contribution of β2AR signaling in tumor cells to metastasis in vivo, we used RNA interference to generate MDA-MB-231(HM) breast cancer cells that are deficient in β2AR. β2AR knockdown in tumor cells reduced the proportion of cells with a mesenchymal-like morphology and, as expected, reduced tumor cell invasion in vitro. Conversely, overexpression of β2AR in low metastatic MCF-7 breast cancer cells induced an invasive phenotype. Importantly, we found that knockdown of β2AR in tumor cells significantly reduced the impact of stress on metastasis in vivo. These findings highlight a crucial role for β2AR tumor cell signaling in the adverse effects of stress on metastasis, and indicate that it may be necessary to block β2AR on tumor cells to fully control metastatic progression.

Peripheral indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 is required for comorbid depression-like behavior but does not contribute to neuropathic pain in mice.

Zhou W, Dantzer R, Budac DP, Walker AK, Mao-Ying QL, Lee AW, Heijnen CJ, Kavelaars A

Chronic pain frequently co-occurs with major depressive disorder but the mechanisms are poorly understood. We investigated the contribution of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-1 (IDO1), a rate-limiting enzyme in the conversion of tryptophan to neurotoxic metabolites, to this comorbidity using the spared nerve injury (SNI) model of neuropathic pain in mice. SNI resulted in unilateral mechanical allodynia, reduced social interaction, and increased immobility in the forced swim test without changes in locomotor activity. These findings indicate SNI-induced pain and comorbid depression-like behavior. These behavioral responses were accompanied by increases in plasma kynurenine/tryptophan ratios and increased expression of Ido1 and Il1b mRNA in the liver. Interestingly, SNI did not induce detectable changes in spinal cord or brain Ido1 mRNA levels. SNI was associated with spinal cord inflammatory activity as evidenced by increased Il1b mRNA expression. The SNI-induced increase of liver Ido1and Il1b mRNA was abrogated by intrathecal administration of the IL-1 inhibitor IL-1RA. Intrathecal IL-1RA also inhibited both mechanical allodynia and depression-like behavior. We also show that Ido1 is required for the development of depression-like behavior because Ido1(-/-) mice do not develop increased immobility in the forced swim test or decreased social exploration in response to SNI. Mechanical allodynia was similar in WT and Ido1(-/-) mice. In conclusion, our findings show for the first time that neuropathic pain is associated with an increase of Ido1 in liver, but not brain, downstream of spinal cord IL-1β signaling and that Ido1 mediates comorbid depression. Moreover, comorbidity of neuropathic pain and depression are only partially mediated by a common mechanism because mechanical hyperalgesia develops independently of Ido1.

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide and adult stress exposure predisposes rats to anxiety-like behaviour and blunted corticosterone responses: implications for the double-hit hypothesis.

Walker AK, Nakamura T, Byrne RJ, Naicker S, Tynan RJ, Hunter M, Hodgson DM

The double-hit hypothesis posits that an early life genetic or environmental insult sets up a neural predisposition to psychopathology, which may emerge in the presence of a subsequent insult, or 'second hit' in later life. The current study assessed the effect of neonatal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure on anxiety-like behaviours in the adult Wistar rat. Rats were administered either LPS (Salmonella enterica, serotype enteritidis, 0.05 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline (equivolume) on days 3 and 5 of life (birth=day 1). In adulthood (85 days), subjects were allocated to either "stress" or "no stress" treatment groups. For the "stress" group, subjects were exposed to a three-day stress protocol consisting of a 30 min period of restraint and isolation. The "no stress" group was left unperturbed but were handled during this period to control for handling effects between adult "stress" and "no stress" conditions. All animals then underwent behavioural testing using standardised tests of anxiety-like behaviour, including either the Hide Box/Open Field, Elevated Plus Maze (EPM) or Acoustic Startle Response (ASR). Time and event measures for restraint and isolation, the Hide Box/Open Field and EPM were recorded using automated tracking software. Startle amplitude and habituation across time was measured in the ASR test. Prior to and following behavioural test sessions, peripheral blood was collected to assess serum corticosterone and ACTH levels. Data analysis indicated that LPS-treated animals exposed to stress in adulthood exhibited increased anxiety-like behaviour across all behavioural tests compared to controls. Sexually dimorphic effects were observed with males exhibiting increased anxiety-related behaviours compared to females (p<.05). Neonatal LPS exposure induced a significant increase in corticosterone compared to controls (p<.05), whereas corticosterone responses to stress in adulthood were associated with a significantly blunted HPA axis response (p<.05). No differences in ACTH were observed. These results lend support to the double-hit hypothesis of anxiety-related behaviour, demonstrating that neonatal immune activation produces an enhanced propensity toward anxiety-related behaviour following stress in adulthood, and that this susceptibility is associated with alterations to HPA axis ontogeny.

Mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced behavioral toxicities.

Vichaya EG, Chiu GS, Krukowski K, Lacourt TE, Kavelaars A, Dantzer R, Heijnen CJ, Walker AK

While chemotherapeutic agents have yielded relative success in the treatment of cancer, patients are often plagued with unwanted and even debilitating side-effects from the treatment which can lead to dose reduction or even cessation of treatment. Common side effects (symptoms) of chemotherapy include (i) cognitive deficiencies such as problems with attention, memory and executive functioning; (ii) fatigue and motivational deficit; and (iii) neuropathy. These symptoms often develop during treatment but can remain even after cessation of chemotherapy, severely impacting long-term quality of life. Little is known about the underlying mechanisms responsible for the development of these behavioral toxicities, however, neuroinflammation is widely considered to be one of the major mechanisms responsible for chemotherapy-induced symptoms. Here, we critically assess what is known in regards to the role of neuroinflammation in chemotherapy-induced symptoms. We also argue that, based on the available evidence, neuroinflammation is unlikely the only mechanism involved in the pathogenesis of chemotherapy-induced behavioral toxicities. We evaluate two other putative candidate mechanisms. To this end we discuss the mediating role of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) activated in response to chemotherapy-induced cellular damage. We also review the literature with respect to possible alternative mechanisms such as a chemotherapy-induced change in the bioenergetic status of the tissue involving changes in mitochondrial function in relation to chemotherapy-induced behavioral toxicities. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie the emergence of fatigue, neuropathy, and cognitive difficulties is vital to better treatment and long-term survival of cancer patients.

Editorial: Neuroinflammation and behavior.

Sominsky L, Walker AK, Hodgson DM

Neuroinflammation and comorbidity of pain and depression.

Walker AK, Kavelaars A, Heijnen CJ, Dantzer R

Comorbid depression and chronic pain are highly prevalent in individuals suffering from physical illness. Here, we critically examine the possibility that inflammation is the common mediator of this comorbidity, and we explore the implications of this hypothesis. Inflammation signals the brain to induce sickness responses that include increased pain and negative affect. This is a typical and adaptive response to acute inflammation. However, chronic inflammation induces a transition from these typical sickness behaviors into depression and chronic pain. Several mechanisms can account for the high comorbidity of pain and depression that stem from the precipitating inflammation in physically ill patients. These mechanisms include direct effects of cytokines on the neuronal environment or indirect effects via downregulation of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2, activation of the tryptophan-degrading enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase that generates neurotropic kynurenine metabolites, increased brain extracellular glutamate, and the switch of GABAergic neurotransmission from inhibition to excitation. Despite the existence of many neuroimmune candidate mechanisms for the co-occurrence of depression and chronic pain, little work has been devoted so far to critically assess their mediating role in these comorbid symptoms. Understanding neuroimmune mechanisms that underlie depression and pain comorbidity may yield effective pharmaceutical targets that can treat both conditions simultaneously beyond traditional antidepressants and analgesics.

Activation of lung toll-like receptors does not exacerbate sickness responses to lipopolysaccharide in mice.

Walker AK, Hsieh J, Luu KV, Radwan AA, Valverde GR, Dickey BF, Tuvim MJ, Dantzer R

Pneumonia represents a leading cause of death. Recently, a novel treatment strategy for pneumonia has involved enhancing the host pulmonary innate immune response by pre-exposure to aerosolized toll-like receptor (TLR)9 and TLR2/6 agonists, known as O/P. O/P inhalation in mice has been demonstrated to stimulate innate lung immunity, and thus increase survival against subsequent pneumonia infection while producing barely detectable increases in systemic cytokines. Here, we examined the safety of O/P treatment when used in mice that are inflamed systemically. Swiss-Webster mice were treated with two doses of aerosolized O/P (1× or 8×) vs phosphate buffered saline (PBS) either immediately before intraperitoneal injection of 0.1mg/kg lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or PBS (equivolume) or 2h after. Sickness responses (reduced body weight, food intake, activity and social interaction) were examined at 2 and 5.5h post-treatment. Immediately following behavioral testing, mice were euthanized, perfused with PBS, and brains, spleens, livers and lungs snap frozen for assessment of pro-inflammatory cytokine mRNAs. While O/P treatment alone increased lung IL-1β, IFNγ and TNF-α, no such effects were observed in the brain, spleen or liver. Furthermore, there was no evidence that O/P treatment administered before or after LPS had any synergizing effect to potentiate the cytokine response to LPS in any compartment measured. Supportive of these findings were the measures of sickness behaviors that did not show any increased sickness response in O/P-treated mice exposed to LPS, suggestive that the cytokine signal produced in the lungs from O/P inhalation did not propagate to the brain and synergize with LPS-induced neuroinflammation. These findings support the safety of the use of O/P inhalation as a preventative measure against pneumonia and demonstrate a unique ability of the lungs to compartmentalize pulmonary inflammation and limit propagation of the cytokine signal to the brain.

Is there a role for glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity in inflammation-induced depression?

Dantzer R, Walker AK

Chronic inflammation in physically ill patients is often associated with the development of symptoms of depression. The mechanisms that are responsible for inflammation-associated depression have been elucidated over the last few years. Kynurenine produced from tryptophan in a reaction catabolized by indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase is transported into the brain where it is metabolized by microglial enzymes into a number of neurotropic compounds including quinolinic acid, an agonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Quinolinic acid can synergize with glutamate released by activated microglia. This chain of events opens the possibility to treat inflammation-induced depression using therapies that target the transport of kynurenine through the blood-brain barrier, the production of quinolinic acid and glutamate by activated microglia, or the efflux of glutamate from the brain to the blood.

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide treatment has long-term effects on monoaminergic and cannabinoid receptors in the rat.

Zavitsanou K, Dalton VS, Walker AK, Weickert CS, Sominsky L, Hodgson DM

NMDA receptor blockade by ketamine abrogates lipopolysaccharide-induced depressive-like behavior in C57BL/6J mice.

Walker AK, Budac DP, Bisulco S, Lee AW, Smith RA, Beenders B, Kelley KW, Dantzer R

We have previously demonstrated that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces depressive-like behavior by activating indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase (IDO; O'Connor et al, 2009c). IDO degrades tryptophan along the kynurenine pathway. Using mass-spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis of kynurenine metabolites in the brain of mice injected at the periphery with 1 mg/kg LPS, we show that LPS activates the kynurenine 3-monooxygenase pathway that ultimately degrades kynurenine into quinolinic acid. As quinolinic acid acts as an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor agonist, we used the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine to assess the role of NMDA receptor activation in LPS-induced depressive-like behavior. Here, we report that a low dose of ketamine (6 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) immediately before administration of LPS (0.83 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) in C57Bl/6 J mice abrogated the development of LPS-induced depressive-like behavior, without altering LPS-induced sickness measured by body weight loss, decreased motor activity, and reduced food intake. Depressive-like behavior was measured 24 h after LPS by decreased sucrose preference and increased immobility in the forced swim test (FST). Ketamine had no effect on LPS-induced cytokine expression in the liver and brain, IDO activation, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) transcripts. The ability of ketamine to abrogate LPS-induced depressive-like behavior independently of a possible interference with LPS-induced inflammatory signaling was confirmed when ketamine was administered 10 h after LPS instead of immediately before LPS. In contrast, ketamine had no effect when administered 24 h before LPS. To confirm that NMDA receptor antagonism by ketamine mediates the antidepressant-like activity of this compound in LPS-treated mice, mice were pretreated with the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor antagonist 2,3-dihydroxy-6-nitro-7-sulfamoyl-benzo(f)quinoxaline-2,3-dione (NBQX) to block enhanced AMPA receptor glutamatergic neurotransmission after NMDA receptor antagonism by ketamine. NBQX administered at the dose of 10 mg/kg intraperitoneally 15 min before ketamine in mice treated with LPS 24 h earlier restored LPS-induced decreased sucrose preference. These findings indicate that LPS-induced depressive-like behavior is mediated by NMDA receptor activation, probably as a consequence of formation of quinolinic acid.

Safety, tolerability, and biomarkers of the treatment of mice with aerosolized Toll-like receptor ligands.

Alfaro VY, Goldblatt DL, Valverde GR, Munsell MF, Quinton LJ, Walker AK, Dantzer R, Varadhachary A, Scott BL, Evans SE, Tuvim MJ, Dickey BF

We have previously discovered a synergistically therapeutic combination of two Toll-like receptor ligands, an oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) and Pam2CSK4. Aerosolization of these ligands stimulates innate immunity within the lungs to prevent pneumonia from bacterial and viral pathogens. Here we examined the safety and tolerability of this treatment in mice, and characterized the expression of biomarkers of innate immune activation. We found that neutrophils appeared in lung lavage fluid 4 h after treatment, reached a peak at 48 h, and resolved by 7 days. The peak of neutrophil influx was accompanied by a small increase in lung permeability. Despite the abundance of neutrophils in lung lavage fluid, only rare neutrophils were visible histopathologically in the interstitium surrounding bronchi and veins and none were visible in alveolar airspaces. The cytokines interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor, and Chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 2 rose several hundred-fold in lung lavage fluid 4 h after treatment in a dose-dependent and synergistic manner, providing useful biomarkers of lung activation. IL-6 rose fivefold in serum with delayed kinetics compared to its rise in lavage fluid, and might serve as a systemic biomarker of immune activation of the lungs. The dose-response relationship of lavage fluid cytokines was preserved in mice that underwent myeloablative treatment with cytosine arabinoside to model the treatment of hematologic malignancy. There were no overt signs of distress in mice treated with ODN/Pam2CSK4 in doses up to eightfold the therapeutic dose, and no changes in temperature, respiratory rate, or behavioral signs of sickness including sugar water preference, food disappearance, cage exploration or social interaction, though there was a small degree of transient weight loss. We conclude that treatment with aerosolized ODN/Pam2CSK4 is well tolerated in mice, and that innate immune activation of the lungs can be monitored by the measurement of inflammatory cytokines in lung lavage fluid and serum.

Transgenerational transmission of anxiety induced by neonatal exposure to lipopolysaccharide: implications for male and female germ lines.

Walker AK, Hawkins G, Sominsky L, Hodgson DM

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure increases anxiety-like behaviour and alters neuroendocrine responses to stress in adult rats. The current study assessed whether this anxiety-related phenotype observed in rats neonatally exposed to LPS is transferable to subsequent generations. Wistar rats were exposed to LPS (0.05 mg/kg, Salmonella enteritidis) or non-pyrogenic saline (equivolume) on postnatal days 3 and 5. In adulthood, animals were subjected to restraint and isolation stress or no stress, and subsequently evaluated for anxiety-like behaviours on the elevated plus maze, acoustic startle response, and holeboard apparatus. Blood was collected to examine corticosterone responses to stress and behavioural testing in adulthood. Animals from both treatment groups which exhibited the anxiety-like phenotype were bred with untreated partners. Maternal care of the second generation (F2) was monitored over the first week of life. In adulthood, the F2 generation underwent identical testing procedures as the parental (F1) generation. The F2 offspring of females exposed to LPS as neonates exhibited an anxiety-like phenotype in adulthood and a potentiated corticosterone response to stress (p<.05). F2 offspring of males exposed to LPS as neonates also exhibited an anxiety-like phenotype (p<.05), however, no differences in corticosterone responses were observed. To determine the impact of maternal care on the anxiety-like phenotype, a cross-fostering study was conducted in which offspring of LPS-treated females were fostered to saline-treated mothers and vice versa, which was found to reverse the behavioural and endocrine phenotypes of the F2 generation. These data indicate that a neonatally bacterially induced anxiety phenotype is transferable across generations in both sexes. Maternal care is the mediating mechanism along the maternal line. We suggest that transmission may be dependent upon heritable epigenetic phenomena for the paternal line. The implications of this study apply to potential neuroimmune pathways through which psychopathology may be transmitted along filial lines.

Increased microglial activation in the rat brain following neonatal exposure to a bacterial mimetic.

Sominsky L, Walker AK, Ong LK, Tynan RJ, Walker FR, Hodgson DM

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure increases anxiety-like behaviour in adulthood. Our current aim was to examine whether neonatal LPS exposure is associated with changes in microglial activation, and whether these alterations correspond with alterations in behaviour. In adulthood, LPS-treated animals exhibited significantly increased anxiety-like behaviour and hippocampal microglial activation. The efficacy of the LPS challenge was confirmed by increased neonatal plasma corticosterone and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) phosphorylation in the adrenal medulla. These findings suggest a neuroimmune pathway which may underpin the long-term behavioural and neuroendocrine changes following neonatal infection.

Neonatal immune challenge alters reproductive development in the female rat.

Sominsky L, Meehan CL, Walker AK, Bobrovskaya L, McLaughlin EA, Hodgson DM

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure alters neuroendocrine, immune and behavioural responses in adult rats. Recent findings indicate that neonatal LPS treatment may have a more pronounced effect on the mating behaviours of females compared to males. The current study further explored the impact of neonatal inflammation on reproductive development in the female rat. Wistar rats were administered LPS (0.05 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline (equivolume) on postnatal days (PNDs) 3 and 5. The immediate effect of treatment was assessed on plasma corticosterone and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) phosphorylation in the adrenal medulla. Weight gain and vaginal opening were recorded, and oestrous cyclicity was monitored post-puberty and in late adulthood. Blood and ovaries were collected throughout development to assess HPA and HPG hormones and to examine ovarian morphology. Reproductive success in the first (F1) generation and reproductive development in the second (F2) generation were also assessed. Neonatal LPS exposure resulted in increased TH phosphorylation in the neonatal adrenals. LPS treatment increased the corticosterone concentrations of females as juveniles, adolescents and adults, and reduced FSH in adolescence. Increased catch-up growth was evident in LPS-treated females, prompting earlier onset of puberty. Diminished follicular reserve was observed in neonatally LPS-treated females along with the advanced reproductive senescence. While fertility rates were not compromised, higher mortality and morbidity were observed in litters born to LPS-treated mothers. Female offspring of LPS-treated mothers displayed increased corticosterone on PND 14, increased catch-up growth and delayed emergence of the first oestrous cycle. No differences in any of the parameters assessed were observed in F2 males. These data suggest that neonatal immunological challenge has a profound impact on the female reproductive development, via the alteration of metabolic and neuroendocrine factors which regulate sexual maturation. Evidence of altered development in the female, but not male offspring of LPS-treated dams suggests increased susceptibility of females to the deleterious effects of neonatal immunological stress and its possible transferability to a subsequent generation.

Synergistic Effect between Maternal Infection and Adolescent Cannabinoid Exposure on Serotonin 5HT1A Receptor Binding in the Hippocampus: Testing the "Two Hit" Hypothesis for the Development of Schizophrenia.

Dalton VS, Verdurand M, Walker A, Hodgson DM, Zavitsanou K

Infections during pregnancy and adolescent cannabis use have both been identified as environmental risk factors for schizophrenia. We combined these factors in an animal model and looked at their effects, alone and in combination, on serotonin 5HT1A receptor binding (5HT1AR) binding longitudinally from late adolescence to adulthood. Pregnant rats were exposed to the viral mimic poly I:C on embryonic day 15. Adolescent offspring received daily injections of the cannabinoid HU210 for 14 days starting on postnatal day (PND) 35. Hippocampal and cortical 5HT1AR binding was quantified autoradiographically using [(3)H]8-OH-DPAT, in late adolescent (PND 55), young adult (PND 65) and adult (PND 90) rats. Descendants of poly I:C treated rats showed significant increases of 15-18% in 5HT1AR in the hippocampus (CA1) compared to controls at all developmental ages. Offspring of poly I:C treated rats exposed to HU210 during adolescence exhibited even greater elevations in 5HT1AR (with increases of 44, 29, and 39% at PNDs 55, 65, and 90). No effect of HU210 alone was observed. Our results suggest a synergistic effect of prenatal infection and adolescent cannabinoid exposure on the integrity of the serotoninergic system in the hippocampus that may provide the neurochemical substrate for abnormal hippocampal-related functions relevant to schizophrenia.

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide exposure impairs sexual development and reproductive success in the Wistar rat.

Walker AK, Hiles SA, Sominsky L, McLaughlin EA, Hodgson DM

We investigated, in rats, whether neonatal exposure to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) impairs sexual development, sexual decline, and reproductive behaviour in later life. Rats were administered either LPS (Salmonella enterica, serotype enteritidis, 0.05 mg/kg, ip) or saline (equivolume) on days 3 and 5 postpartum. The immediate and long-term effect of treatment on HPA and HPG hormones, testicular morphology, and mating behaviour was assessed. Neonatal LPS exposure induced a significant increase in corticosterone compared to controls, as well as reduced testosterone and LH in males and LH in females immediately following neonatal drug exposure. Neonatal LPS exposure disrupted the normal weight-to-age ratio of puberty onset in males and females, and impaired sexual performance in adulthood. Reproductive function was reflected in significantly diminished sperm presence in rats that had received neonatal LPS. LPS-treated females exhibited LH suppression during puberty, and males demonstrated testosterone suppression in late adulthood. Testosterone and LH surges during mating were significantly reduced in adult offspring treated with LPS as neonates. Furthermore, animals exposed to neonatal LPS and subsequent stress in adulthood, exhibited significantly blunted corticosterone responses. Morphometric assessment of testes taken from neonates revealed reduced gonocyte genesis immediately following LPS exposure and increased seminiferous disorganisation of the epithelium in these animals in adulthood. This research demonstrates the long-term impact of neonatal bacterial exposure on reproductive success given that early life exposure to bacteria disrupted puberty onset and sexual performance. Associated changes in neuroendocrine functioning suggest a possible mechanism through which a subfertile phenotype may arise.

Neonatal lipopolysaccharide exposure alters central cytokine responses to stress in adulthood in Wistar rats.

Walker AK, Nakamura T, Hodgson DM

"Perinatal programming" is a phenomenon describing how early life environmental conditions can produce long-term physiological alterations that either enhance or inhibit adaptive functioning. Previously, we have demonstrated that neonatal exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) predisposes to anxiety-like behaviour in later life, which was associated with changes to the neuroendocrine response to stress. Given the known interactions between the neuroendocrine and neuroimmune systems, here we investigated whether neonatal exposure to a bacterial mimetic alters neuroimmune responses to acute stress in adulthood. Male and female Wistar rats were administered LPS (0.05 mg/kg, i.p.), or saline vehicle (equivolume) on days 3 and 5 post-partum. One group of rats was euthanised following early life treatment to assess immediate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and central cytokine responses to treatment. A second group was assessed in adulthood (85 days) following exposure to either a "stress" (30-min restraint) or "no stress" condition. Blood was collected from all rats at baseline, 30, 60 and 90 min after "stress", "no stress" treatment to assess peripheral corticosterone responses, and brains were collected 180 min following baseline to assess hippocampal content of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNFα) and IL-6 protein. Radioimmunoassay revealed that neonatal LPS treatment resulted in a prolonged corticosterone response to stress in adulthood compared to controls (p < 0.05). Enzyme-linked-immunosorbent assays revealed no group differences in hippocampal IL-6 content. However, brain IL-1β and TNFα protein concentrations were significantly greater in rats neonatally exposed to LPS and then exposed to stress in adulthood when compared to all other groups (p < 0.05). These findings suggest that early life bacterial toxin exposure results in a prolonged neuroendocrine response to acute stress in adulthood, which may be a consequence of increased release of IL-1β and TNFα in the brain.