Two-hit model of schizophrenia induced by neonatal immune activation and peripubertal stress in rats: Study of sex differences and brain oxidative alterations

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Schizophrenia is considered to be a developmental disorder with distinctive sex differences. Aiming to simulate the vulnerability of the third trimester of human pregnancy to the developmental course of schizophrenia, an animal model was developed, using neonatal poly(I:C) as a first-hit, and peripubertal stress as a second-hit, i.e. a two-hit model. Since, to date, there have been no references to sex differences in the two-hit model, our study sought to determine sex influences on the development of behavior and brain oxidative change in adult rats submitted to neonatal exposure to poly(I:C) on postnatal days 5–7 as well as peripubertal unpredictable stress (PUS). Our results showed that adult two-hit rats present sex-specific behavioral alterations, with females showing more pronounced deficits in prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex and hyperlocomotion, while males showing more deficits in social interaction. Male and female animals exhibited similar working memory deficits. The levels of the endogenous antioxidant, reduced glutathione, were decreased in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of both male and female animals exposed to both poly(I:C) and poly(I:C) + PUS. Only females presented decrements in GSH levels in the striatum. Nitrite levels were increased in the PFC of male and in the striatum of female poly(I:C) + PUS rats. Increased lipid peroxidation was observed in the PFC of females and in the striatum of males and females exposed to poly(I:C) and poly(I:C) + PUS. Thus, the present study presents evidence for sex differences in behavior and oxidative brain change induced by a two-hit model of schizophrenia.

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