Growing evidence suggests that early-life interactions among genetic, immune, and environment factors may modulate neurodevelopment and cause psycho-cognitive deficits. Maternal immune activation (MIA) induces autism-like behaviors in offspring, but how it interplays with perinatal brain injury (especially birth asphyxia or hypoxia-ischemia [HI]) is unclear. Herein we compared the effects of MIA (injection of poly[I:C] to dam at gestational day 12.5), HI at postnatal day 10, and the combined MIA/HI insult in murine offspring of both sexes. We found that MIA induced autistic-like behaviors without microglial activation, but amplified post-HI NFκB signaling, pro-inflammatory responses, and brain injury in offspring. Conversely, HI neither provoked autistic-like behaviors nor concealed them in the MIA-offspring. Instead, the dual MIA/HI insult added autistic-like behaviors with diminished synaptic density and reduction of autism-related PSD-95 and Homer-1 in the hippocampus, which were missing in the singular MIA or HI insult. Further, the dual MIA/HI insult enhanced the brain influx of Otx2-positive monocytes that are associated with an increase of perineuronal net (PNN)-enwrapped parvalbumin (PV) neurons. Using CCR2-CreER mice to distinguish monocytes from the resident microglia, we found that the monocytic infiltrates gradually adopted a ramified morphology and expressed the microglial signature genes (Tmem119, P2RY12, and Sall1) in post-MIA/HI brains, while some continuing to express the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα. Finally, genetic or pharmacological obstruction of monocytic influx significantly reduced PNN-enwrapped PV neurons and autistic-like behaviors in MIA/HI offspring. Taken together, these results suggest a pathological role of monocytes in the two-hit (immune plus neonatal HI) model of neurodevelopmental defects.In Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), prenatal infection or maternal immune activation (MIA) may act as a primer for multiple genetic and environmental factors to impair neurodevelopment. This study examined whether MIA cooperates with neonatal cerebral hypoxia-ischemia (HI) to promote ASD-like aberrations in mice using a novel two-hit model. It was shown that the combination of MIA and neonatal HI produces autistic-like behaviors in the offspring, and has synergistic effects in inducing neuroinflammation, monocytic infiltrates, synaptic defects, and perineuronal nets (PNNs). Furthermore, genetic or pharmacological intervention of the MCP1-CCR2 chemoattractant pathway markedly reduced monocytic infiltrates, PNNs, and autistic-like behaviors. These results suggest reciprocal escalation of immune and neonatal brain injury in a subset of ASD that may benefit from monocyte-targeted treatments.
Copyright © 2020 the authors.