BACKGROUND: Important insight into the mechanisms through which gene-environmental interactions cause schizophrenia can be achieved through preclinical studies combining prenatal immune stimuli with disease-related genetic risk modifications. Accumulating evidence associates JNK signalling molecules, including MKK7/MAP2K7, with genetic risk. We tested the hypothesis that Map2k7 gene haploinsufficiency in mice would alter the prenatal immune response to the viral mimetic polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidylic acid (polyI:C), specifically investigating the impact of maternal versus foetal genetic variants.
METHODS: PolyI:C was administered to dams (E12.5), and cytokine/chemokine levels were measured 6 h later, in maternal plasma, placenta and embryonic brain.
RESULTS: PolyI:C dramatically elevated maternal plasma levels of most cytokines/chemokines. Induction of IL-1β, IL-2, IL-10, IL-12, TNF-α and CXCL3 was enhanced, while CCL5 was suppressed, in Map2k7 hemizygous (Hz) dams relative to controls. Maternal polyI:C administration also increased embryonic brain chemokines, influenced by both maternal and embryonic genotype: CCL5 and CXCL10 levels were higher in embryonic brains from Map2k7 dams versus control dams; for CCL5, this was more pronounced in Map2k7 Hz embryos. Placental CXCL10 and CXCL12 levels were also elevated by polyI:C, the former enhanced and the latter suppressed, in placentae from maternal Map2k7 Hzs relative to control dams receiving polyI:C.
CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate JNK signalling as a mediator of MIA effects on the foetus. Since both elevated CXCL10 and supressed CXCL12 compromise developing GABAergic interneurons, the results support maternal immune challenge contributing to schizophrenia-associated neurodevelopmental abnormalities. The influence of Map2k7 on cytokine/chemokine induction converges the genetic and environmental aspects of schizophrenia, and the overt influence of maternal genotype offers an intriguing new insight into modulation of embryonic neurodevelopment by genetic risk.