Remodeling the Th1 polarized systemic environment contributes to neurogenesis and cognitive function via the Wnt7a pathway in neonatal mice

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Neonatal Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination results in a positive effect on hippocampal neurogenesis and cognition. Serum cytokines are considered to be the chief culprit. In this study, serum from BCG-treated mice was identified as Th1 polarized serum. The serum showed an increased ratio of IFN-γ to IL-4 and decreased levels of TNF-α and IL-6. After Th1 polarized serum was injected intraperitoneally into postnatal mice, the levels of cytokines and ratio of IFN-γ to IL-4 in the serum and hippocampus of postnatal mice showed a similar alteration as those in Th1 polarized serum. This result indicated that the immune homeostatic milieu in postnatal mice was broken and the Th1 polarized systemic environment in the BCG-serum group was remodeled. The BCG-serum group displayed more BrdU+/DCX+ cells, BrdU+/NeuN+ cells, Nestin+ cells and better cognitive abilities. In neural stem cells, the Wnt7a/β-catenin signaling pathway was activated and exposure to the Wnt7a antagonist Dickkopf-1 inhibited BCG-serum-induced Wnt7a/β-catenin signaling, neurogenesis and cognitive function. Additionally, BCG-serum was associated with elevations in hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, and BDNF expression in the BCG-serum group was offset by Dickkopf-1 treatment. By rebalancing the Th1 polarized systemic environment in neonatal mice, it is possible that treatment with BCG-serum promotes hippocampal neurogenesis and improves cognitive functions, which are associated with Wnt7a/β-catenin-BDNF signaling.

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