Male-specific deficits in natural reward learning in a mouse model of neurodevelopmental disorders.
ABSTRACT: Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, are highly male biased, but the underpinnings of this are unknown. Striatal dysfunction has been strongly implicated in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders, raising the question of whether there are sex differences in how the striatum is impacted by genetic risk factors linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we report male-specific deficits in striatal function important to reward learning in a mouse model of 16p11.2 hemideletion, a genetic mutation that is strongly associated with the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. We find that male, but not female, 16p11.2 deletion animals show impairments in reward-directed learning and maintaining motivation to work for rewards. Male, but not female, deletion animals overexpress mRNA for dopamine receptor 2 and adenosine receptor 2a in the striatum, markers of medium spiny neurons signaling via the indirect pathway, associated with behavioral inhibition. Both sexes show a 50% reduction of mRNA levels of the genes located within the 16p11.2 region in the striatum, including the kinase extracellular-signal related kinase 1 (ERK1). However, hemideletion males show increased activation in the striatum for ERK1, both at baseline and in response to sucrose, a signaling change associated with decreased striatal plasticity. This increase in ERK1 phosphorylation is coupled with a decrease in the abundance of the ERK phosphatase striatum-enriched protein-tyrosine phosphatase in hemideletion males. In contrast, females do not show activation of ERK1 in response to sucrose, but notably hemideletion females show elevated protein levels for ERK1 as well as the related kinase ERK2 over what would be predicted by mRNA levels. These data indicate profound sex differences in the impact of a genetic lesion linked with neurodevelopmental disorders, including mechanisms of male-specific vulnerability and female-specific resilience impacting intracellular signaling in the brain.
Project description:Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ASD and ADHD, affect males about three to four times more often than females. 16p11.2 hemideletion is a copy number variation that is highly associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Previous work from our lab has shown that a mouse model of 16p11.2 hemideletion (del/+) exhibits male-specific behavioral phenotypes. We, therefore, aimed to investigate with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), whether del/+ animals also exhibited a sex-specific neuroanatomical endophenotype. Using the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas, we analyzed the expression patterns of the 27 genes within the 16p11.2 region to identify which gene expression patterns spatially overlapped with brain structural changes. MRI was performed ex vivo and the resulting images were analyzed using Voxel-based morphometry for T1-weighted sequences and tract-based spatial statistics for diffusion-weighted images. In a subsequent step, all available in situ hybridization (ISH) maps of the genes involved in the 16p11.2 hemideletion were aligned to Waxholm space and clusters obtained by sex-specific group comparisons were analyzed to determine which gene(s) showed the highest expression in these regions. We found pronounced sex-specific changes in male animals with increased fractional anisotropy in medial fiber tracts, especially in those proximate to the striatum. Moreover, we were able to identify gene expression patterns spatially overlapping with male-specific structural changes that were associated with neurite outgrowth and the MAPK pathway. Of note, previous molecular studies have found convergent changes that point to a sex-specific dysregulation of MAPK signaling. This convergent evidence supports the idea that ISH maps can be used to meaningfully analyze imaging data sets.
Project description:16p11.2 deletion is one of the most common gene copy variations that increases the susceptibility to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This syndrome leads to developmental delays, including speech impairment and delays in expressive language and communication skills. To study developmental impairment of vocal communication associated with 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, we used the 16p11.2del mouse model and performed an analysis of pup isolation calls (PICs). The earliest PICs at postnatal day 5 from 16p11.2del pups were found altered in a male-specific fashion relative to wild-type (WT) pups. Analysis of sequences of ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) emitted by pups using mutual information between syllables at different positions in the USV spectrograms showed that dependencies exist between syllables in WT mice of both sexes. The order of syllables was not random; syllables were emitted in an ordered fashion. The structure observed in the WT pups was identified and the pattern of syllable sequences was considered typical for the mouse line. However, typical patterns were totally absent in the 16p11.2del male pups, showing on average random syllable sequences, while the 16p11.2del female pups had dependencies similar to the WT pups. Thus, we found that PICs were reduced in number in male 16p11.2 pups and their vocalizations lack the syllable sequence order emitted by WT males and females and 16p11.2 females. Therefore, our study is the first to reveal sex-specific perinatal communication impairment in a mouse model of 16p11.2 deletion and applies a novel, more granular method of analysing the structure of USVs.
Project description:A deletion on human chromosome 16p11.2 is associated with autism spectrum disorders. We deleted the syntenic region on mouse chromosome 7F3. MRI and high-throughput single-cell transcriptomics revealed anatomical and cellular abnormalities, particularly in cortex and striatum of juvenile mutant mice (16p11(+/-)). We found elevated numbers of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) expressing the dopamine D2 receptor (Drd2(+)) and fewer dopamine-sensitive (Drd1(+)) neurons in deep layers of cortex. Electrophysiological recordings of Drd2(+) MSN revealed synaptic defects, suggesting abnormal basal ganglia circuitry function in 16p11(+/-) mice. This is further supported by behavioral experiments showing hyperactivity, circling, and deficits in movement control. Strikingly, 16p11(+/-) mice showed a complete lack of habituation reminiscent of what is observed in some autistic individuals. Our findings unveil a fundamental role of genes affected by the 16p11.2 deletion in establishing the basal ganglia circuitry and provide insights in the pathophysiology of autism.
Project description:In humans a chromosomal hemideletion of the 16p11.2 region results in variable neurodevelopmental deficits including developmental delay, intellectual disability, and features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Serotonin is implicated in ASD but its role remains enigmatic. In this study we sought to determine if and how abnormalities in serotonin neurotransmission could contribute to the behavioral phenotype of the 16p11.2 deletion syndrome in a mouse model (Del mouse). As ASD is frequently associated with altered response to acute stress and stress may exacerbate repetitive behavior in ASD, we studied the Del mouse behavior in the context of an acute stress using the forced swim test, a paradigm well characterized with respect to serotonin. Del mice perseverated with active coping (swimming) in the forced swim test and failed to adopt passive coping strategies with time as did their wild-type littermates. Analysis of monoamine content by HPLC provided evidence for altered endogenous serotonin neurotransmission in Del mice while there was no effect of genotype on any other monoamine. Moreover, we found that Del mice were highly sensitive to the 5-HT2A antagonists M100907, which at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg normalized their level of active coping and restored the gradual shift to passive coping in the forced swim test. Supporting evidence for altered endogenous serotonin signaling was provided by observations of additional ligand effects including altered forebrain Fos expression. Taken together, these observations indicate notable changes in endogenous serotonin signaling in 16p11.2 deletion mice and support the therapeutic utility of 5-HT2A receptor antagonists.
Project description:We knocked out ERK1 and ERK2 in the striatopallidal population of striatal medium spiny neurons and analyzed differences in gene expression at P17, a time of increased synapse formation. We used whole gene microarray to assess transcriptional changes that occur in the mouse striatum at P17 in response to ERK1/2 deletion in striatopallidal medium spiny neurons. Overall design: Striatal punches were extracted from Mapk3(Erk1)-/-; Mapk1(Erk2)Floxed/Floxed (control mice) or Drd2Cre;Mapk3(Erk1)-/-; Mapk1(Erk2)Floxed/Floxed (mutant mice) at postnatal day 17. RNA was extracted and analyzed using Affymetrix microarray.
Project description:Submicroscopic recurrent 16p11.2 rearrangements are associated with several neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, mental retardation, and schizophrenia. The common 16p11.2 region includes 24 known genes, of which 22 are expressed in the developing human fetal nervous system. As yet, the mechanisms leading to neurodevelopmental abnormalities and the broader phenotypes associated with deletion or duplication of 16p11.2 have not been clarified. Here we report a child with spastic quadriparesis, refractory infantile seizures, severe global developmental delay, hypotonia, and microcephaly, and a de novo 598 kb 16p11.2 microduplication. Family history is negative for any of these features in parents and immediate family members. Sequencing analyses showed no mutations in DOC2A, QPRT, and SEZ6L2, genes within the duplicated 16p11.2 region that have been implicated in neuronal function and/or seizure related phenotypes. The child's clinical course is consistent with a rare seizure disorder called malignant migrating partial seizure disorder of infancy, raising the possibility that duplication or disruption of genes in the 16p11.2 interval may contribute to this severe disorder.
Project description:Striatal interneurons are born in the medial and caudal ganglionic eminences (MGE and CGE) and play an important role in human striatal function and dysfunction in Huntington's disease and dystonia. MGE/CGE-like neural progenitors have been generated from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) for studying cortical interneuron development and cell therapy for epilepsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we report the capacity of hPSC-derived MGE/CGE-like progenitors to differentiate into functional striatal interneurons. In vitro, these hPSC neuronal derivatives expressed cortical and striatal interneuron markers at the mRNA and protein level and displayed maturing electrophysiological properties. Following transplantation into neonatal rat striatum, progenitors differentiated into striatal interneuron subtypes and were consistently found in the nearby septum and hippocampus. These findings highlight the potential for hPSC-derived striatal interneurons as an invaluable tool in modeling striatal development and function in vitro or as a source of cells for regenerative medicine.
Project description:It is well established that the cannabinoid and dopamine systems interact at various levels to regulate basal ganglia function. Although it is well known that acute administration of cannabinoids to mice can modify dopamine-dependent behaviors, the intraneuronal signaling pathways employed by these agents in the striatum are not well understood. Here we used knockout mouse models to examine the regulation of striatal extracellular-signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) signaling by behaviorally relevant doses of cannabinoids. This cellular pathway has been implicated as a central mediator of drug reward and synaptic plasticity. In C57BL/6J mice, acute administration of the cannabinoid agonists, (-)-11-hydroxydimethylheptyl-?8-tetrahydrocannabinol (HU-210) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (?(9) -THC), promoted a dose- and time-dependent decrease in the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 in dorsal striatum. Co-administration of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor antagonist N-(Piperidin-1-yl)-5-(4-iodophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide(AM251) with HU-210 prevented ERK1/2 inactivation, indicating a requirement for activation of this receptor. In dopamine D1 receptor knockout animals treated with HU-210, the magnitude of the HU-210-dependent decrease in striatal ERK1/2 signaling was greater than in wild-type controls. In contrast, HU-210 administration to N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor knockdown mice was ineffective at promoting striatal ERK1/2 inactivation. Genetic deletion of other potential ERK1/2 mediators, the dopamine D2 receptors or ?-arrestin-1 or -2, did not affect the HU-210-induced modulation of ERK1/2 signaling in the striatum. These results support the hypothesis that dopamine D1 receptors and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors act in an opposite manner to regulate striatal CB1 cannabinoid receptor signal transduction.
Project description:Striatal circuit dysfunction is implicated in smoking behaviors and lapses during abstinence attempts. However, little is known about whether the structural connectivity of striatal tracts can be used to predict abstinence-induced craving and lapses. The tract strengths of striatal circuits were compared in 53 male nicotine-dependent cigarette smokers and 58 matched nonsmokers, using seed-based classification by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) probabilistic tractography with 10 a priori target masks. A 12-h abstinence procedure was then employed, after which 31 individuals abstained and 22 lapsed. Linear regression and binary logistic regression was conducted to test whether the tract strength of frontostriatal circuits was associated with craving changes in abstainers and predicted lapse in smokers. Compared with nonsmokers, in the left hemisphere, smokers showed weaker tract strength in striatum-medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), striatum-ventral lateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), striatum-inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and striatum-posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) (Bonferroni corrected, p < 0.05/20 = 0.0025). In abstainers, the abstinence-induced increases in craving were associated with the tract strength of the left striatum-mOFC and striatum-vlPFC. The tract strength of left striatum-dorsolateral PFC (dlPFC) predicted lapse in smokers with an accuracy of 68.3%. These results provide system-level insights into the weaker tract strength of frontostriatal circuits in male smokers and their potential roles as neuroimaging markers for abstinence-induced craving and risk of lapse. Future studies in female smokers are needed to determine if this generalizes across genders.
Project description:Deletion of the recurrent ~600 kb BP4-BP5 chromosomal region 16p11.2 has been associated with a wide range of neurodevelopmental outcomes.To clarify the phenotype of 16p11.2 deletion, we examined the psychiatric and developmental presentation of predominantly clinically referred individuals, with a particular emphasis on broader autism phenotype characteristics in individuals with recurrent ~600 kb chromosome 16p11.2 deletions. Using an extensive standardized assessment battery across three clinical sites, 85 individuals with the 16p11.2 deletion and 153 familial control subjects were evaluated for symptom presentation and clinical diagnosis.Individuals with the 16p11.2 deletion presented with a high frequency of psychiatric and developmental disorders (>90%). The most commonly diagnosed conditions were developmental coordination disorder, phonologic processing disorder, expressive and receptive language disorders (71% of individuals >3 years old with a speech and language-related disorder), and autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with the 16p11.2 deletion not meeting diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder had a significantly higher prevalence of autism-related characteristics compared with the familial noncarrier control group. Individuals with the 16p11.2 deletion had a range of intellectual ability, but IQ scores were 26 points lower than noncarrier family members on average.Clinically referred individuals with the 16p11.2 deletion have high rates of psychiatric and developmental disorders and provide a genetically well-defined group to study the emergence of developmental difficulties, particularly associated with the broader autism phenotype.