Shh activation restores interneurons and cognitive function in newborns with intraventricular haemorrhage

Bokun Cheng, Deep R. Sharma, Ajeet Kumar, Hardik Sheth, Alex Agyemang, Michael Aschner, Xusheng Zhang, Praveen Ballabh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Premature infants with germinal matrix haemorrhage-intraventricular haemorrhage (GMH-IVH) suffer from neurobehavioural deficits as they enter childhood and adolescence. Yet the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Impaired development and function of interneurons contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, we hypothesized that the occurrence of IVH would reduce interneuron neurogenesis in the medial ganglionic eminence and diminish the population of parvalbumin+ and somatostatin+ cortical interneurons. Because Sonic Hedgehog promotes the production of cortical interneurons, we also postulated that the activation of Sonic Hedgehog signalling might restore neurogenesis, cortical interneuron population, and neurobehavioural function in premature newborns with IVH. These hypotheses were tested in a preterm rabbit model of IVH and autopsy samples from human preterm infants. We compared premature newborns with and without IVH for intraneuronal progenitors, cortical interneurons, transcription factors regulating neurogenesis, single-cell transcriptome of medial ganglionic eminence and neurobehavioural functions. We treated premature rabbit kits with adenovirus expressing Sonic Hedgehog (Ad-Shh) or green fluorescence protein gene to determine the effect of Sonic Hedgehog activation on the interneuron production, cortical interneuron population and neurobehaviour. We discovered that IVH reduced the number of Nkx2.1+ and Dlx2+ progenitors in the medial ganglionic eminence of both humans and rabbits by attenuating their proliferation and inducing apoptosis. Moreover, IVH decreased the population of parvalbumin+ and somatostatin+ neurons in the frontal cortex of both preterm infants and kits relative to controls. Sonic Hedgehog expression and the downstream transcription factors, including Nkx2.1, Mash1, Lhx6 and Sox6, were also reduced in kits with IVH. Consistent with these findings, single-cell transcriptomic analyses of medial ganglionic eminence identified a distinct subpopulation of cells exhibiting perturbation in genes regulating neurogenesis, ciliogenesis, mitochondrial function and MAPK signalling in rabbits with IVH. More importantly, restoration of Sonic Hedgehog level by Ad-Shh treatment ameliorated neurogenesis, cortical interneuron population and neurobehavioural function in kits with IVH. Additionally, Sonic Hedgehog activation alleviated IVH-induced inflammation and several transcriptomic changes in the medial ganglionic eminence. Taken together, IVH reduced intraneuronal production and cortical interneuron population by downregulating Sonic Hedgehog signalling in both preterm rabbits and humans. Notably, activation of Sonic Hedgehog signalling restored interneuron neurogenesis, cortical interneurons and cognitive function in rabbit kits with IVH. These findings highlight disruption in cortical interneurons in IVH and identify a novel therapeutic strategy to restore cortical interneurons and cognitive function in infants with IVH. These studies can accelerate the development of new therapies to enhance the neurodevelopmental outcome of survivors with IVH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-644
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • Sonic Hedgehog
  • cortical interneuron
  • germinal matrix haemorrhage
  • neurogenesis
  • premature newborns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Shh activation restores interneurons and cognitive function in newborns with intraventricular haemorrhage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this