Early-life influenza A (H1N1) infection independently programs brain connectivity, HPA AXIS and tissue-specific gene expression profiles

Myriam P. Merz, Snehaa V. Seal, Nathalie Grova, Sophie Mériaux, Pauline Guebels, Georgia Kanli, Elise Mommaerts, Nathalie Nicot, Tony Kaoma, Olivier Keunen, Petr V. Nazarov, Jonathan D. Turner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Early-life adversity covers a range of physical, social and environmental stressors. Acute viral infections in early life are a major source of such adversity and have been associated with a broad spectrum of later-life effects outside the immune system or “off-target”. These include an altered hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and metabolic reactions. Here, we used a murine post-natal day 14 (PND 14) Influenza A (H1N1) infection model and applied a semi-holistic approach including phenotypic measurements, gene expression arrays and diffusion neuroimaging techniques to investigate HPA axis dysregulation, energy metabolism and brain connectivity. By PND 56 the H1N1 infection had been resolved, and there was no residual gene expression signature of immune cell infiltration into the liver, adrenal gland or brain tissues examined nor of immune-related signalling. A resolved early-life H1N1 infection had sex-specific effects. We observed retarded growth of males and altered pre-stress (baseline) blood glucose and corticosterone levels at PND42 after the infection was resolved. Cerebral MRI scans identified reduced connectivity in the cortex, midbrain and cerebellum that were accompanied by tissue-specific gene expression signatures. Gene set enrichment analysis confirmed that these were tissue-specific changes with few common pathways. Early-life infection independently affected each of the systems and this was independent of HPA axis or immune perturbations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5898
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2024


  • Corticosterone
  • Early life adversity
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • H1N1
  • HPA axis
  • Infection
  • Influenza
  • MRI
  • Multi-organ programming
  • Stress


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