A concise, working summary of my summer project:
Microglia are resident immune cells in the brain, and are necessary in establishment of normal neural circuitry, namely synapse formation and synapse refinement and elimination. Combinations of genetic predisposition and environmental factors, and maternal stress have been implicated in the maldevelopment of microglia, and predictive of neurodevelopmental disorders, like autism spectrum disorder. Previous work has shown that combined prenatal stressors induce precocious thalamocortical synapse formation and excessive synapse elimination in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a brain region important for communication and social behavior. This study sought to further characterize the normal developmental pattern of synapses as impacted by microglia in the ACC. Using immunohistochemistry staining and confocal imaging we quantified both synapse number and engulfment of presynaptic particles by microglia in early developing mice to define normal formation and elimination of glutamatergic synapses in the ACC. Preliminary findings show increase in synapse number until peak time point, which then levels out around developmental day 13 in mice. Using this data we can use similar methods to compare how air pollution, a leading environmental precursor to autism, and maternal stress alters normal development of neural synaptic circuitry at peak timepoints, and its relation to autism like behavior.