Annakarina Mundorf, Nadja Kubitza, Karola Hünten
Jul 28, 2021
Behavioural Brain Research
Atypical asymmetries have been reported in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, linking higher symptom severity to weaker lateralization. Furthermore, both lateralization and schizophrenia are influenced by the dopaminergic system. However, whether a direct link between the etiology of schizophrenia and atypical asymmetries exists is yet to be investigated. In this study, we examined whether maternal immune activation (MIA), a developmental animal model for schizophrenia and known to alter the dopaminergic system, induces atypical lateralization in adolescent and adult offspring. As the dopaminergic system is a key player in both, we analyzed neuronal dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) mRNA expression. MIA was induced by injecting pregnant rats with 10 mg/kg polyinosinic:polycytidylic (PolyI:C) at gestational day 15. Controls were injected with 0.9 % NaCl. Offspring were tested at adolescence (P42) or adulthood (P62) for asymmetry of turning behavior in the open field test. The total number of left and right turns per animal was assessed using DeepLabCut. Strength and preferred side of asymmetry were analyzed by calculating lateralization quotients. Additionally, DRD2 mRNA expression in the prefrontal cortex of offspring at both ages was analyzed using real-time PCR. MIA was associated with a rightward turning behavior in adolescents. In adults, MIA was associated with an absence of turning bias, indicating reduced asymmetry after MIA. The analysis of DRD2 mRNA expression revealed significantly lower mRNA levels after MIA compared to controls in adolescent, but not adult animals. Our results reinforce the association between atypical asymmetries, reduced DRD2 mRNA expression, and schizophrenia. However, more preclinical research is needed.