Pharmacological modulation of AMPA receptor rescues social impairments in animal models of autism.
ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, featuring social communication deficit and repetitive/restricted behaviors as common symptoms. Its prevalence has continuously increased, but, till now, there are no therapeutic approaches to relieve the core symptoms, particularly social deficit. In previous studies, abnormal function of the glutamatergic neural system has been proposed as a critical mediator and therapeutic target of ASD-associated symptoms. Here, we investigated the possible roles of ?-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs) in autism symptoms using two well-known autistic animal models, Cntnap2 knockout (KO) mice and in utero valproic acid-exposed ICR (VPA) mice. We found that Cntnap2 KO mice displayed decreased glutamate receptor expression and transmission. Contrarily, VPA mice exhibited increased glutamate receptor expression and transmission. Next, we investigated whether AMPAR modulators (positive-allosteric-modulator for Cntnap2 KO mice and antagonist for VPA mice) can improve autistic symptoms by normalizing the aberrant excitatory transmission in the respective animal models. Interestingly, the AMPAR modulation specifically ameliorated social deficits in both animal models. These results indicated that AMPAR-derived excitatory neural transmission changes can affect normal social behavior. To validate this, we injected an AMPAR agonist or antagonist in control ICR mice and, interestingly, these treatments impaired only the social behavior, without affecting the repetitive and hyperactive behaviors. Collectively, these results provide insight into the role of AMPARs in the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of ASD, and demonstrate that modulation of AMPAR can be a potential target for the treatment of social behavior deficits associated with ASD.
Project description:Glutamatergic synapses rely on AMPA receptors (AMPARs) for fast synaptic transmission and plasticity. AMPAR auxiliary proteins regulate receptor trafficking, and modulate receptor mobility and its biophysical properties. The AMPAR auxiliary protein Shisa7 (CKAMP59) has been shown to interact with AMPARs in artificial expression systems, but it is unknown whether Shisa7 has a functional role in glutamatergic synapses. We show that Shisa7 physically interacts with synaptic AMPARs in mouse hippocampus. Shisa7 gene deletion resulted in faster AMPAR currents in CA1 synapses, without affecting its synaptic expression. Shisa7 KO mice showed reduced initiation and maintenance of long-term potentiation of glutamatergic synapses. In line with this, Shisa7 KO mice showed a specific deficit in contextual fear memory, both short-term and long-term after conditioning, whereas auditory fear memory and anxiety-related behavior were normal. Thus, Shisa7 is a bona-fide AMPAR modulatory protein affecting channel kinetics of AMPARs, necessary for synaptic hippocampal plasticity, and memory recall.
Project description:Regulation of AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-mediated synaptic transmission is a key mechanism for synaptic plasticity. In the brain, AMPARs assemble with a number of auxiliary subunits, including TARPs, CNIHs and CKAMP44, which are important for AMPAR forward trafficking to synapses. Here we report that the membrane protein GSG1L negatively regulates AMPAR-mediated synaptic transmission. Overexpression of GSG1L strongly suppresses, and GSG1L knockout (KO) enhances, AMPAR-mediated synaptic transmission. GSG1L-dependent regulation of AMPAR synaptic transmission relies on the first extracellular loop domain and its carboxyl-terminus. GSG1L also speeds up AMPAR deactivation and desensitization in hippocampal CA1 neurons, in contrast to the effects of TARPs and CNIHs. Furthermore, GSG1L association with AMPARs inhibits CNIH2-induced slowing of the receptors in heterologous cells. Finally, GSG1L KO rats have deficits in LTP and show behavioural abnormalities in object recognition tests. These data demonstrate that GSG1L represents a new class of auxiliary subunit with distinct functional properties for AMPARs.
Project description:Due to the complex and heterogeneous etiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), identification of convergent pathways and/or common molecular endpoints in the pathophysiological processes of ASD development are highly needed in order to facilitate treatment approaches targeted at the core symptoms. We recently reported on decreased expression of the Ca2+-binding protein parvalbumin (PV) in three well-characterized ASD mouse models, Shank1-/-, Shank3B-/- and in utero VPA-exposed mice. Moreover, PV-deficient mice (PV+/- and PV-/-) were found to show behavioral impairments and neuroanatomical changes closely resembling those frequently found in human ASD individuals. Here, we combined a stereology-based approach with molecular biology methods to assess changes in the subpopulation of PV-expressing (Pvalb) interneurons in the recently characterized contactin-associated protein-like 2 (Cntnap2-/-) knockout mouse model of ASD. The CNTNAP2 gene codes for a synaptic cell adhesion molecule involved in neurodevelopmental processes; mutations affecting the human CNTNAP2 locus are associated with human ASD core symptoms, in particular speech and language problems. We demonstrate that in Cntnap2-/- mice, no loss of Pvalb neurons is evident in ASD-associated brain regions including the striatum, somatosensory cortex (SSC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), shown by the unaltered number of Pvalb neurons ensheathed by VVA-positive perineuronal nets. However, the number of PV-immunoreactive (PV+) neurons and also PV protein levels were decreased in the striatum of Cntnap2-/- mice indicating that PV expression levels in some striatal Pvalb neurons dropped below the detection limit, yet without a loss of Pvalb neurons. No changes in PV+ neuron numbers were detected in the cortical regions investigated and also cortical PV expression levels were unaltered. Considering that Cntnap2 shows high expression levels in the striatum during human and mouse embryonic development and that the cortico-striato-thalamic circuitry is important for speech and language development, alterations in striatal PV expression and associated (homeostatic) adaptations are likely to play an important role in Cntnap2-/- mice and, assumingly, in human ASD patients with known Cntnap2 mutations.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is thought to result from deviation from normal development of neural circuits and synaptic function. Many genes with mutation in ASD patients have been identified. Here we report that two molecules associated with ASD susceptibility, contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) and Abelson helper integration site-1 (AHI1), are required for synaptic function and ASD-related behavior in mice. Knockdown of CNTNAP2 or AHI1 in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the developing mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC) reduced excitatory synaptic transmission, impaired social interaction and induced mild vocalization abnormality. Although the causes of reduced excitatory transmission were different, pharmacological enhancement of AMPA receptor function effectively restored impaired social behavior in both CNTNAP2- and AHI1-knockdown mice. We conclude that reduced excitatory synaptic transmission in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the PFC leads to impaired social interaction and mild vocalization abnormality in mice.
Project description:GABAergic interneurons are emerging as prominent substrates in the pathophysiology of multiple neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, intellectual disability, and epilepsy. Interneuron excitatory activity is influenced by 2-amino-3-(3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazol-4-yl) propanoic acid receptors (AMPARs), which in turn affects excitatory transmission in the central nervous system. Yet how dysregulation of interneuronal AMPARs distinctly contributes to the molecular underpinning of neurobiological disease is drastically underexplored. Contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) is a neurexin-related adhesion molecule shown to mediate AMPAR subcellular distribution while calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine protein kinase (CASK) is a multi-functional scaffold involved with glutamate receptor trafficking. Mutations in both genes have overlapping disease associations, including autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability, and epilepsy, thus suggesting converging perturbations of excitatory/inhibitory balance. Our lab has previously shown that CNTNAP2 stabilizes interneuron dendritic arbors through CASK and that CNTNAP2 regulates AMPAR subunit GluA1 trafficking in excitatory neurons. The interaction between these three proteins, however, has not been studied in interneurons. Using biochemical techniques, structured illumination microscopy (SIM) and shRNA technology, we first confirm that these three proteins interact in mouse brain, and then examined relationship between CNTNAP2, CASK and GluA1 in mature interneurons. Using SIM, we ascertain that a large fraction of endogenous CNTNAP2, CASK, and GluA1 molecules collectively colocalize together in a tripartite manner. Finally, individual knockdown of either CNTNAP2 or CASK similarly alter GluA1 levels and localization. These findings offer insight to molecular mechanisms underlying GluA1 regulation in interneurons.
Project description:UNLABELLED:The number of AMPA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs) at synapses is the major determinant of synaptic strength and varies from synapse to synapse. To clarify the underlying molecular mechanisms, the density of AMPARs, PSD-95, and transmembrane AMPAR regulatory proteins (TARPs) were compared at Schaffer collateral/commissural (SCC) synapses in the adult mouse hippocampal CA1 by quantitative immunogold electron microscopy using serial sections. We examined four types of SCC synapses: perforated and nonperforated synapses on pyramidal cells and axodendritic synapses on parvalbumin-positive (PV synapse) and pravalbumin-negative interneurons (non-PV synapse). SCC synapses were categorized into those expressing high-density (perforated and PV synapses) or low-density (nonperforated and non-PV synapses) AMPARs. Although the density of PSD-95 labeling was fairly constant, the density and composition of TARP isoforms was highly variable depending on the synapse type. Of the three TARPs expressed in hippocampal neurons, the disparity in TARP ?-2 labeling was closely related to that of AMPAR labeling. Importantly, AMPAR density was significantly reduced at perforated and PV synapses in TARP ?-2-knock-out (KO) mice, resulting in a virtual loss of AMPAR disparity among SCC synapses. In comparison, TARP ?-8 was the only TARP expressed at nonperforated synapses, where AMPAR labeling further decreased to a background level in TARP ?-8-KO mice. These results show that synaptic inclusion of TARP ?-2 potently increases AMPAR expression and transforms low-density synapses into high-density ones, whereas TARP ?-8 is essential for low-density or basal expression of AMPARs at nonperforated synapses. Therefore, these TARPs are critically involved in AMPAR density control at SCC synapses. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:Although converging evidence implicates the importance of transmembrane AMPA-type glutamate receptor (AMPAR) regulatory proteins (TARPs) in AMPAR stabilization during basal transmission and synaptic plasticity, how they control large disparities in AMPAR numbers or densities across central synapses remains largely unknown. We compared the density of AMPARs with that of TARPs among four types of Schaffer collateral/commissural (SCC) hippocampal synapses in wild-type and TARP-knock-out mice. We show that the density of AMPARs correlates with that of TARP ?-2 across SCC synapses and its high expression is linked to high-density AMPAR expression at perforated type of pyramidal cell synapses and synapses on parvalbumin-positive interneurons. In comparison, TARP ?-8 is the only TARP expressed at nonperforated type of pyramidal cell synapses, playing an essential role in low-density or basal AMPAR expression.
Project description:Altered sensory information processing, and auditory processing, in particular, is a common impairment in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One prominent hypothesis for the etiology of ASD is an imbalance between neuronal excitation and inhibition. The selective GABA<sub>B</sub> receptor agonist R-Baclofen has been shown previously to improve social deficits and repetitive behaviors in several mouse models for neurodevelopmental disorders including ASD, and its formulation Arbaclofen has been shown to ameliorate social avoidance symptoms in some individuals with ASD. The present study investigated whether R-Baclofen can remediate ASD-related altered sensory processing reliant on excitation/inhibition imbalance in the auditory brainstem. To assess a possible excitation/inhibition imbalance in the startle-mediating brainstem underlying ASD-like auditory-evoked behaviors, we detected and quantified brain amino acid levels in the nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis (PnC) of rats with a homozygous loss-of-function mutation in the ASD-linked gene <i>Contactin-associated protein-like 2</i> (<i>Cntnap2</i>) and their wildtype (WT) littermates using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry (MALDI MS). Abnormal behavioral read-outs of brainstem auditory signaling in <i>Cntnap2</i> KO rats were accompanied by increased levels of GABA, glutamate, and glutamine in the PnC. We then compared the effect of R-Baclofen on behavioral read-outs of brainstem auditory signaling in <i>Cntnap2</i> KO and WT rats. Auditory reactivity, sensory filtering, and sensorimotor gating were tested in form of acoustic startle response input-output functions, short-term habituation, and prepulse inhibition before and after acute administration of R-Baclofen (0.75, 1.5, and 3 mg/kg). Systemic R-Baclofen treatment improved disruptions in sensory filtering in <i>Cntnap2</i> KO rats and suppressed exaggerated auditory startle responses, in particular to moderately loud sounds. Lower ASR thresholds in <i>Cntnap2</i> KO rats were increased in a dose-dependent fashion, with the two higher doses bringing thresholds close to controls, whereas shorter ASR peak latencies at the threshold were further exacerbated. Impaired prepulse inhibition increased across various acoustic prepulse conditions after administration of R-Baclofen in <i>Cntnap2</i> KO rats, whereas R-Baclofen did not affect prepulse inhibition in WT rats. Our findings suggest that GABA<sub>B</sub> receptor agonists may be useful for pharmacologically targeting multiple aspects of sensory processing disruptions involving neuronal excitation/inhibition imbalances in ASD.
Project description:A family of transmembrane AMPA receptor regulatory proteins (TARPs) profoundly affects the trafficking and gating of AMPA receptors (AMPARs). Although TARP subtypes are differentially expressed throughout the CNS, it is unclear whether this imparts functional diversity to AMPARs in distinct neuronal populations. Here, we examine the effects of each TARP subtype on the kinetics of AMPAR gating in heterologous cells and in neurons. We report a striking heterogeneity in the effects of TARP subtypes on AMPAR deactivation and desensitization, which we demonstrate controls the time course of synaptic transmission. In addition, we find that some TARP subtypes dramatically slow AMPAR activation kinetics. Synaptic AMPAR kinetics also depend on TARP expression level, suggesting a variable TARP/AMPAR stoichiometry. Analysis of quantal synaptic transmission in a TARP gamma-4 knockout (KO) mouse corroborates our expression data and demonstrates that TARP subtype-specific gating of AMPARs contributes to the kinetics of native AMPARs at central synapses.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) form a heterogeneous, neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by deficits in social interactions and repetitive behavior/restricted interests. Dysregulation of mTOR signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of certain types of ASD, and inhibition of mTOR by rapamycin has been demonstrated to be an effective therapeutics for impaired social interaction in Tsc1+/-, Tsc2+/-, Pten-/- mice and valproic acid-induced ASD animal models. However, it is still unknown if dysregulation of mTOR signaling is responsible for the ASD-related deficit caused by other genes mutations. Contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) is the first widely replicated autism-predisposition gene. Mice deficient in Cntnap2 (Cntnap2-/- mice) show core ASD-like phenotypes, and have been demonstrated as a validated model for ASD-relevant drug discovery. In this study, we found hyperactive Akt-mTOR signaling in the hippocampus of Cntnap2-/- mice with RNA sequencing followed with biochemical analysis. Treatment with Akt inhibitor LY294002 or mTOR inhibitor rapamycin rescued the social deficit, but had no effect on hyperactivity and repetitive behavior/restricted behavior in Cntnap2-/- mice. We further showed that the effect of LY294002 and rapamycin on social behaviors is reversible. Our results thus identified hyperactive Akt-mTOR signaling pathway as a therapeutic target for abnormal social behavior in patients with dysfunction of CNTNAP2.
Project description:Regulation of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors (CP-AMPARs) is crucial in normal synaptic function and neurological disease states. Although transmembrane AMPAR regulatory proteins (TARPs) such as stargazin (?-2) modulate the properties of calcium-impermeable AMPARs (CI-AMPARs) and promote their synaptic targeting, the TARP-specific rules governing CP-AMPAR synaptic trafficking remain unclear. We used RNA interference to manipulate AMPAR-subunit and TARP expression in ?-2-lacking stargazer cerebellar granule cells--the classic model of TARP deficiency. We found that TARP ?-7 selectively enhanced the synaptic expression of CP-AMPARs and suppressed CI-AMPARs, identifying a pivotal role of ?-7 in regulating the prevalence of CP-AMPARs. In the absence of associated TARPs, both CP-AMPARs and CI-AMPARs were able to localize to synapses and mediate transmission, although their properties were altered. Our results also establish that TARPed synaptic receptors in granule cells require both ?-2 and ?-7 and reveal an unexpected basis for the loss of AMPAR-mediated transmission in stargazer mice.