Background: Depression and schizophrenia are debilitating mental illnesses
with significant socio-economic impact. The high degree of comorbidity between the two
disorders, and shared symptoms and risk factors, suggest partly common pathogenic
mechanisms. Supported by human and animal studies, maternal immune activation (MIA)
has been intimately associated with the development of schizophrenia. However, the link
between MIA and depression has remained less clear, in part due to the lack of appropriate
Objective: Here we aim to summarize findings obtained from studies using MIA animal
models and discuss their relevance for preclinical depression research.
Methods: Results on molecular, cellular and behavioral phenotypes in MIA animal models
were collected by literature search (PubMed) and evaluated for their significance for depression.
Results: Several reports on offspring depression-related behavioral alterations indicate an involvement of MIA
in the development of depression later in life. Depression-related behavioral phenotypes were frequently
paralleled by neurogenic and neurotrophic deficits and modulated by several genetic and environmental factors.
Conclusion: Literature evidence analyzed in this review supports a relevance of MIA as animal model for a
specific early life adversity, which may prime an individual for the development of distinct psychopathologies
later life. MIA animal models may present a unique tool for the identification of additional exogenous and
endogenous factors, which are required for the manifestation of a specific neuropsychiatric disorder, such as
depression, later in life. Hereby, novel insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology
of depression may be obtained, supporting the identification of alternative therapeutic strategies.