Prenatal poly I:C age-dependently alters cannabinoid type 1 receptors in offspring: a longitudinal small animal PET study using [18F]MK-9470.

Evidence suggests that there is a link between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and neuropsychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia. While the ECS has been shown to be involved in immune system regulation in various ways, it is known that infections during pregnancy can modulate the immune system of the mother and increase the risk for schizophrenia in offspring. In animal studies, maternal immune activation following administration of viral or bacterial mimics has been shown to reproduce many key structural, behavioural, and pharmacological abnormalities in offspring that resemble schizophrenia. In the present study, we used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and [18F]MK-9470, a selective high-affinity inverse agonist radioligand for cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB1R), to longitudinally assess CB1R expression in the progeny of female rats exposed to the viral mimic polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidilic acid (poly I:C) (4mg/kg i.v.) or vehicle at gestational day 15 (GD 15). PET scans were performed in offspring at post-natal days (PND) 32-42 (adolescence) and in the same animals again at PND 75-79 (adulthood). Sixteen regions of interest were assessed, encompassing the whole rat brain. At adolescence, offspring exposed prenatally to poly I:C had significantly lower CB1R relative standard uptake (rSUV) values compared to controls in the globus pallidus (p=0.046). In adulthood, however, poly I:C exposed offspring had higher levels of CB1R rSUV in sensory cortex (p=0.034) and hypothalamus (p=0.032) compared to controls. Our results suggest that prenatal poly I:C leads to long term alterations in the integrity of the ECS that are age and region-specific. The increased CB1R expression in adulthood following poly I:C mirrors the increased CB1R observed in patients with schizophrenia in post-mortem and in vivo PET studies.

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