Behavioral impact of maternal allergic-asthma in two genetically distinct mouse strains

Jared J. Schwartzer, Milo Careaga, Morgan A. Coburn, Destanie R. Rose, Heather K. Hughes, Paul Ashwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent population-based studies of expecting mothers identified a unique profile of immune markers that are associated with an increased risk of having a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This immune profile, including increased levels of maternal and placental interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-5, is consistent with an immune response found in an allergic-asthma phenotype. Allergies and asthma reflect an imbalance in immune responses including polarization towards T-helper type 2 (TH2) responses, with both genetic susceptibility and environmental factors affecting this T-cell polarization. Mouse strains provide a known and controlled source of genetic diversity to explore the role of genetic predisposition on environmental factors. In particular, the FVB background exhibits a skew towards TH2-mediated allergic-asthma response in traditional models of asthma whereas the C57 strain exhibits a more blunted TH2 polarized phenotype resulting in an attenuated allergic-asthma response. C57BL/6J (C57) and the sighted FVB.129P2-Pde6b(+) Tyr(c-ch)/Ant (FVB/Ant) lines were selected based on their characteristic high sociability and differing sensitivity to TH2-mediated stimuli. Based on the distinct allergy-sensitive immune responses of these two strains, we hypothesized that unique developmental consequences would occur in offspring following maternal allergy-asthma exposure. Female C57 and FVB/Ant dams were primed/sensitized with an exposure to ovalbumin (OVA) before pregnancy, then exposed to either aerosolized OVA or PBS-vehicle throughout gestation. Sera from pregnant dams were analyzed for changes in cytokine profiles using multiplex-arrays and offspring were assessed for changes in autism-like behavioral responses. Analysis of maternal sera revealed elevated IL-4 and IL-5 in OVA-treated dams of both strains but only C57 mice expressed increased levels of IL-1β, IL-6, TNFα, and IL-17. Behavioral assessments revealed strain-dependent changes in juvenile reciprocal social interaction in offspring of maternal allergic asthma dams. Moreover, mice of both strains showed decreased repetitive grooming and increased marble burying behavior when born to OVA-exposed dams. Together, these findings support the important role genetic predisposition plays in the effects of maternal immune activation and underscore differences in ASD-like behavioral outcomes across mouse strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StateAccepted/In press - Jul 28 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Allergies
  • Animal model
  • ASD
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Maternal immune activation
  • Translational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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