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Patterns of cerebral inflammatory response in a rabbit model of intrauterine infection-mediated brain lesion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

T Debillon, C Gras-Leguen, S Leroy, J Caillon, J C Rozé, P Gressens

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1
Published10 Oct 2003

King's Authors


Although the fetal inflammatory response syndrome seems crucial to the association between intrauterine infection and white matter disease in human preterm infants, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Using our previously described rabbit model of cerebral cell death in the white matter and hippocampus induced by intrauterine Escherichia coli infection, we investigated inflammatory and astroglial responses in placenta and brain tissues, in correlation with cell death distribution. Brains and placentas were studied 12, 24, or 48 h following intrauterine inoculation of E. coli or saline (groups G12, G24, and G48). Diffuse monocyte-macrophage infiltrates positive for inducible nitric oxide synthase (i-NOS) were significantly more marked in G24 and G48 placentas than in controls. In the G48 fetuses with both diffuse cell death and focal periventricular white matter cysts mimicking cystic periventricular leukomalacia, a strong rabbit macrophage and inducible nitric oxide synthase immunostaining was observed at the border of these cystic lesions. In contrast, in the fetuses with only diffuse and significant cell death, no inflammatory or astroglial responses were detected in the white matter or hippocampus. Cell death was accompanied by i-NOS immunostaining in the hippocampus but not the white matter. Hippocampal cells positive for i-NOS usually displayed a neuronal phenotype. In this model, focal white matter cysts are accompanied by a robust inflammatory response, and diffuse cell death, which may mimic the white matter and hippocampal damage seen in very and extremely pre-term infants, occur in the absence of a detectable brain inflammatory response.

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