Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Jun Tan


Astroglia, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Inflammation, Luteolin, Prenatal Infection, Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription-3 (Stat3)


Activation of the maternal immune system and resultant maternal cytokine expression due to prenatal infection has been implicated as a significant contributor to the pathology of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Increased maternal interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression, observed clinically and in animal models of prenatal infection, and resultant activation of key signaling pathways, has been shown to be a biological indicator of pathology, and a central component of the pathological mechanism. In animal models of prenatal infection and clinically in pregnancy disorders hallmarked by immunological irregularities and increased IL-6 expression, inhibition of IL-6 has been shown to reduce pathological symptoms both maternally and in the exposed offspring. This study aims to demonstrate the ability of IL-6 expression, resulting from prenatal infection, to induce neuropathological and behavioral outcomes that mirror clinical observations seen in disorders such as ASD. More importantly, it shows how flavones luteolin and diosmin, a subclass of the flavonoid family, through inhibition of IL-6 mediated activation of Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription-3 (Stat3) can reduce these pathologies both in vitro and in vivo.

Evidence suggests that flavonoids, a polyphenolic class of naturally occurring plant secondary metabolites, are potent anti-inflammatory agents that can attenuate the expression of cytokines such as IL-6, possibly through the modulation of tyrosine kinase activity. They have been shown to have significant therapeutic potential in disorders hallmarked by increased inflammation or disruptions in immune regulation, such as neurodegenerative disorders and certain cancers. Members such as diosmin have also been shown to be safe during pregnancy, and are currently utilized in the treatment of certain vascular disorders associated with pregnancy.

In vitro work undertaken in this study showed that co-administration of luteolin with IL-6 in neural stem cells (NSC) was able to attenuate pathological outcomes induced by IL-6 including aberrant proliferation, over expression of astroglial marker, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and changes in cellular morphology. In vivo studies involving luteolin and diosmin further confirmed the therapeutic efficacy of these compounds as similar attenuation of IL-6 mediated maternal and fetal pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and abnormal behaviors in prenatally exposed offspring was observed. Mechanistically, these effects were mediated through inhibition of Stat3 activation although other pathways activated by IL-6 were modulated by flavone co-treatment. Flavonoid treatment during periods of prenatal infection may prove to be a therapeutic intervention for the resultant pathological outcomes seen in offspring through attenuation of the maternal and fetal immune response to infection as well as modulation of signaling pathways in the fetal brain. These compounds may prove therapeutically efficacious for the application in perinatal conditions hallmarked by increased inflammation during pregnancy.