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Human brain organoid model of maternal immune activation identifies radial glia cells as selectively vulnerable.

Maternal immune activation (MIA) during critical windows of gestation is correlated with long-term neurodevelopmental deficits in the offspring, including increased risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in humans. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) derived from the gestational parent is one of the major molecular mediators by which MIA alters the developing brain. In this study, we establish a human three-dimensional (3D) in vitro model of MIA by treating induced pluripotent stem cell-derived dorsal forebrain organoids with a constitutively active form of IL-6, Hyper-IL-6. We validate our model by showing that dorsal forebrain organoids express the molecular machinery necessary for responding to Hyper-IL-6 and activate STAT signaling upon Hyper-IL-6 treatment. RNA sequencing analysis reveals the upregulation of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHCI) genes in response to Hyper-IL-6 exposure, which have been implicated with ASD. We find a small increase in the proportion of radial glia cells after Hyper-IL-6 treatment through immunohistochemistry and single-cell RNA-sequencing. We further show that radial glia cells are the cell type with the highest number of differentially expressed genes, and Hyper-IL-6 treatment leads to the downregulation of genes related to protein translation in line with a mouse model of MIA. Additionally, we identify differentially expressed genes not found in mouse models of MIA, which might drive species-specific responses to MIA. Finally, we show abnormal cortical layering as a long-term consequence of Hyper-IL-6 treatment. In summary, we establish a human 3D model of MIA, which can be used to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the increased risk for developing disorders such as ASD.

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