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Prolactin-mediated suppression of fever during pregnancy

36 months
Approved budget:
Dr Teodora Georgescu
Professor David Grattan
Health issue:
Inflammatory and immune system
Proposal type:
Emerging Researcher First Grant
Lay summary
The maternal brain undergoes numerous physiological adaptations that ultimately safeguard the healthy development of offspring. To protect the unborn foetus from exposure to elevated maternal body temperatures that are detrimental to development, the fever response is suppressed in women during pregnancy. However, the neuronal mechanism behind this vital adaptation is unknown. Prolactin levels are considerably increased during pregnancy, making prolactin-driven pathways a viable candidate for mediating this adaptation. We have identified prolactin receptor (Prlr)-expressing neurons present in two key brain regions for modulating the fever response: the raphe pallidus and the ventral medial preoptic area. By measuring and manipulating the activity of these Prlr-expressing cells during an infection, we propose to reveal how hormones act on neural circuits during pregnancy to attenuate the febrile response. These experiments will begin to assemble an avenue of novel research focused on maternal immune responses, thereby providing a framework to ensure a successful pregnancy.