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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Aug 2022 - 2 Sep 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Aug 23

Neurochem Int

Prenatal exposure to valproic acid causes allodynia associated with spinal microglial activation.


Imado E, Sun S, Abawa A R, Tahara T, Kochi T, Huynh T N B, Asano S, Hasebe S, Nakamura Y, Hisaoka-Nakashima K, Kotake Y, Irifune M, Tsuga K, Takuma K, Morioka N, Kiguchi N, Ago Y
Neurochem Int. 2022 Aug 23:105415.
PMID: 36027995.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. Additionally, difficulties in sensory processing commonly occur in ASD. Sensory abnormalities include heightened or reduced sensitivity to pain, but the mechanism underlying sensory phenotypes in ASD remain unknown. Emerging evidence suggests that microglia play an important role in forming and refining neuronal circuitry, and thus contribute to neuronal plasticity and nociceptive signaling. In the present study, we investigated the age-dependent tactile sensitivity in an animal model of ASD induced by prenatal exposure to valproic acid (VPA) and subsequently assessed the involvement of microglia in the spinal cord in pain processing. Pregnant ICR (CD1) mice were intraperitoneally injected with either saline or VPA (500 mg/kg) on embryonic day 12.5. Male offspring of VPA-treated mothers showed mechanical allodynia at both 4 and 8 weeks of age. In the spinal cord dorsal horn in prenatally VPA-treated mice, the numbers and staining intensities of ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1-positive cells were increased and the cell bodies became enlarged, indicating microglial activation. Treatment with PLX3397, a colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor inhibitor, for 10 days resulted in a decreased number of spinal microglia and attenuated mechanical allodynia in adult mice prenatally exposed to VPA. Additionally, intrathecal injection of Mac-1-saporin, a saporin-conjugated anti-CD11b antibody to deplete microglia, abolished mechanical allodynia. These findings suggest that prenatal VPA treatment causes allodynia and that spinal microglia contribute to the increased nociceptive responses.