MPhil Oral Thesis Exam Seminar


Suhailah Ali 

Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland

Title: "Maternal Immune Activation adversely affects the ontogeny of dopamine neurons. Is Vitamin D neuroprotective?"

Abstract: Dopamine dysregulation is one of the major hypotheses underlying the pathophysiology and treatment of schizophrenia, which is also widely accepted to be a neurodevelopmental disorder. Two well-established animal models based on prenatal environmental exposures – maternal immune activation (MIA) using poly(I:C) treatment, and developmental vitamin D deficiency (DVD) – both show an early reduction in factors crucial for dopaminergic development in the fetal brain. This is suggestive of a convergent aetiological mechanism, which is supported by our recent evidence showing that vitamin D can ameliorate schizophrenia-related behavioural phenotypes in the poly(I:C) model. We therefore wanted to investigate whether vitamin D is acting to correct the abnormal dopaminergic development induced by poly(I:C). Pregnant mice were co-administered the active vitamin D hormone simultaneously with poly(I:C) at gestational day 9 and embryos were collected at two developmental time-points, embryonic day 11 (E11) and E14. In order to examine dopamine ontogeny, we used immunohistochemistry to analyse the expression of two proteins, Lmx1a and Sox2, which can be used to distinguish dopamine progenitors and postmitotic neurons. Using spinning-disk confocal microscopy coupled with an optimised CellProfiler analysis pipeline, we were able to identify individual dopaminergic cells and quantify the expression of these markers, along with cell number, shape, size and spatial position. In E11 embryos, we showed that poly(I:C) impaired progenitor proliferation, with a reduction in the number of progenitors. While this was not directly rescued by vitamin D, some neuroprotective effects were observed; vitamin D increased Lmx1a expression in progenitors and normalised the lateral positioning of postmitotic cells. These alterations were transient, as we did not observe any effects of treatment at E14. Analysis of additional markers which are present in differentiated dopamine neurons is required to understand whether MIA and vitamin D are affecting later aspects of dopaminergic development. We hope to use these findings to elucidate how different environmental risk factors for schizophrenia converge on developing dopaminergic systems.


About Neuroscience Seminars

Neuroscience seminars at the QBI play a major role in the advancement of neuroscience in the Asia-Pacific region. The primary goal of these seminars is to promote excellence in neuroscience through the exchange of ideas, establishing new collaborations and augmenting partnerships already in place.

Seminars in the QBI Auditorium on Level 7 are held on Wednesdays at 12-1pm, which are sometimes simulcast on Zoom (with approval from the speaker). We also occassionally hold seminars from international speakers via Zoom. The days and times of these seminars will vary depending on the time zone of the speaker. Please see each seminar listed below for details. 


Neuroscience Seminars archive 2005-2018