Prenatal challenges such as maternal stress perception increase the risk and severity of asthma during childhood. However, insights into the trajectories and targets underlying the pathogenesis of prenatally triggered asthma are largely unknown. The developing lung and immune system may constitute such targets.
Here we have aimed to identify the differential sex-specific effects of prenatal challenges on lung function, immune response, and asthma severity in mice.
We generated bone marrow chimeric (BMC) mice harboring either prenatally stress-exposed lungs or a prenatally stress-exposed immune (hematopoietic) system and induced allergic asthma via ovalbumin. Next-generation sequencing (RNA sequencing) of lungs and assessment of airway epithelial barrier function in ovalbumin-sensitized control and prenatally stressed offspring was also performed.
Profoundly enhanced airway hyperresponsiveness, inflammation, and fibrosis were exclusively present in female BMC mice with prenatally stress-exposed lungs. These effects were significantly perpetuated if both the lungs and the immune system had been exposed to prenatal stress. A prenatally stress-exposed immune system alone did not suffice to increase the severity of these asthma features. RNA sequencing analysis of lungs from prenatally stressed, non-BMC, ovalbumin-sensitized females unveiled a deregulated expression of genes involved in asthma pathogenesis, tissue remodeling, and tight junction formation. It was also possible to independently confirm a tight junction disruption. In line with this, we identified an altered perinatal and/or postnatal expression of genes involved in lung development along with an impaired alveolarization in female prenatally stressed mice.
Here we have shown that the fetal origin of asthma is orchestrated by a disrupted airway epithelium and further perpetuated by a predisposed immune system.

Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.