Prematurity is associated with significantly increased risk of neurobehavioral pathologies, including autism and schizophrenia. A common feature of these psychiatric disorders is prefrontal cortex (PFC) inhibitory circuit disruption due to GABAergic interneuron alteration. Cortical interneurons are generated and migrate throughout late gestation and early infancy, making them highly susceptible to perinatal insults such as preterm birth. Term and preterm PFC pathology specimens were assessed using immunohistochemical markers for interneurons. Based on the changes seen, a new preterm encephalopathy mouse model was developed to produce similar PFC interneuron loss. Maternal immune activation (MIA; modeling chorioamnionitis, associated with 85% of extremely preterm births) was combined with chronic sublethal hypoxia (CSH; modeling preterm respiratory failure), with offspring of both sexes assessed anatomically, molecularly and neurobehaviorally. In the PFC examined from the human preterm samples compared to matched term samples at corrected age, a decrease in somatostatin (SST) and calbindin (CLB) interneurons was seen in upper cortical layers. This pattern of interneuron loss in upper cortical layers was mimicked in the mouse PFC following the combination of MIA and CSH, but not after either insult alone. This persistent interneuron loss is associated with postnatal microglial activation that occurs during CSH only after MIA. The combined insults lead to long-term neurobehavioral deficits which parallel human psychopathologies that may be seen after extremely preterm birth. This new preclinical model supports a paradigm in which specific cellular alterations seen in preterm encephalopathy can be linked with a risk of neuropsychiatric sequela. Specific interneuron subtypes may provide therapeutic targets to prevent or ameliorate these neurodevelopmental risks.
Lacaille, H., Vacher, C. M., Bakalar, D., O’Reilly, J. J., Salzbank, J., & Penn, A. A. (2019). Impaired interneuron development in a novel model of neonatal brain injury. ENeuro, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0300-18.2019