Prenatal exposure to infection appears to increase the risk of schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders. We have hypothesized that cytokines, generated in response to maternal infection, play a key mechanistic role in this association. E16 timed pregnancy rats were injected i.p. with Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to model prenatal exposure to infection. Placenta, amniotic fluid and fetal brains were collected 2 and 8 h after LPS exposure. There was a significant treatment effect of low-dose (0.5 mg/kg) LPS on placenta cytokine levels, with significant increases of interleukin (IL)-1β (P < 0.0001), IL-6 (P < 0.0001), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (P = 0.0001) over the 2 and 8 h time course. In amniotic fluid, there was a significant effect of treatment on IL-6 levels (P = 0.0006). Two hours after maternal administration of high-dose (2.5 mg/kg) LPS, there were significant elevations of placenta IL-6 (P < 0.0001), TNF-α (P < 0.0001), a significant increase of TNF-α in amniotic fluid (P = 0.008), and a small but significant decrease in TNF-α (P = 0.035) in fetal brain. Maternal exposure to infection alters pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in the fetal environment, which may have a significant impact on the developing brain. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
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