Although polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of anovulatory infertility worldwide, the aetiology of the disorder remains poorly defined. Animal-based evidence highlights the brain as a prime suspect in both the development and maintenance of PCOS. Prenatally androgenised (PNA) models of PCOS exhibit excessive GABAergic wiring associated with PCOS-like reproductive deficits in adulthood, with aberrant brain wiring detected as early as postnatal day (P) 25, prior to disease onset, in the PNA mouse. The mechanisms underlying this aberrant brain wiring remain unknown. Microglia, the immune cells of the brain, are regulators of neuronal wiring across development, mediating both the formation and removal of neuronal inputs. Here, we tested the hypothesis that microglia play a role in the excessive GABAergic wiring that leads to PCOS-like features in the PNA brain. Using specific immunolabelling, microglia number and morphology associated with activation states were analysed in PNA and vehicle-treated controls across developmental timepoints, including embryonic day 17.5, P0, P25 and P60 (n = 7-14 per group), and in two regions of the hypothalamus implicated in fertility regulation. At P0, fewer amoeboid microglia were observed in the rostral preoptic area (rPOA) of PNA mice. However, the greatest changes were observed at P25, with PNA mice exhibiting fewer total microglia, and specifically fewer “sculpting” microglia, in the rPOA. Based on these findings, we assessed microglia-mediated refinement of GABAergic synaptic terminals at two developmental stages of peak synaptic refinement: P7 and P15 (n = 7 per group). PNA mice showed a reduction in the uptake of GABAergic synaptic material at P15. These findings reveal time-specific changes in the microglia population and refinement of GABAergic inputs in a mouse model of PCOS driven by prenatal androgen excess and suggest a role for microglia in shaping the atypical brain wiring associated with the development of PCOS features.
© 2021 British Society for Neuroendocrinology.