Developmental Vitamin D Deficiency Produces Behavioral Phenotypes of Relevance to Autism in an Animal Model.
ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence suggests that gestational or developmental vitamin D (DVD) deficiency is associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, lack of verbal and non-verbal communications, stereotyped repetitive behaviors and hyper-activities. There are several other clinical features that are commonly comorbid with ASD, including olfactory impairments, anxiety and delays in motor development. Here we investigate these features in an animal model related to ASD-the DVD-deficient rat. Compared to controls, both DVD-deficient male and female pups show altered ultrasonic vocalizations and stereotyped repetitive behavior. Further, the DVD-deficient animals had delayed motor development and impaired motor control. Adolescent DVD-deficient animals had impaired reciprocal social interaction, while as adults, these animals were hyperactive. The DVD-deficient model is associated with a range of behavioral features of interest to ASD.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of disorders characterized by core behavioral features including stereotyped interests, repetitive behaviors and impairments in communication and social interaction. In addition, widespread changes in the immune systems of individuals with ASD have been identified, in particular increased evidence of inflammation in the periphery and central nervous system. While the etiology of these disorders remains unclear, it appears that multiple gene and environmental factors are involved. The need for animal models paralleling the behavioral and immunological features of ASD is paramount to better understand the link between immune system dysregulation and behavioral deficits observed in these disorders. As such, the asocial BTBR mouse strain displays both ASD relevant behaviors and persistent immune dysregulation, providing a model system that has and continues to be instructive in understanding the complex nature of ASD.
Project description:Despite significant progress in the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), how genetic mutations translate to the behavioral changes characteristic of ASD remains largely unknown. ASD affects 1-2% of children and adults, and is characterized by deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication, and social interactions, as well as the presence of repetitive behaviors and/or stereotyped interests. ASD is clinically and etiologically heterogeneous, with a strong genetic component. Here, we present functional data from syngap1 and shank3 zebrafish loss-of-function models of ASD. SYNGAP1, a synaptic Ras GTPase activating protein, and SHANK3, a synaptic scaffolding protein, were chosen because of mounting evidence that haploinsufficiency in these genes is highly penetrant for ASD and intellectual disability (ID). Orthologs of both SYNGAP1 and SHANK3 are duplicated in the zebrafish genome and we find that all four transcripts (syngap1a, syngap1b, shank3a and shank3b) are expressed at the earliest stages of nervous system development with pronounced expression in the larval brain. Consistent with early expression of these genes, knockdown of syngap1b or shank3a cause common embryonic phenotypes including delayed mid- and hindbrain development, disruptions in motor behaviors that manifest as unproductive swim attempts, and spontaneous, seizure-like behaviors. Our findings indicate that both syngap1b and shank3a play novel roles in morphogenesis resulting in common brain and behavioral phenotypes.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by social impairments and repetitive behaviors, and affects 1 in 68 US children. Despite ASD's societal impact, its disease mechanisms remain poorly understood. Recent preclinical ASD biomarker discovery research has implicated the neuropeptides oxytocin (OXT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP), and their receptors, OXTR and AVPR1A, in animal models. Efforts to translate these findings to individuals with ASD have typically involved evaluating single neuropeptide measures as biomarkers of ASD and/or behavioral functioning. Given that ASD is a heterogeneous disorder, and unidimensional ASD biomarker studies have been challenging to reproduce, here we employed a multidimensional neuropeptide biomarker analysis to more powerfully interrogate disease status and symptom severity in a well characterized child cohort comprised of ASD patients and neurotypical controls. These blood-based neuropeptide measures, considered as a whole, correctly predicted disease status for 57 out of 68 (i.e., 84%) participants. Further analysis revealed that a composite measure of OXTR and AVPR1A gene expression was the key driver of group classification, and that children with ASD had lower neuropeptide receptor mRNA levels compared to controls. Lower neuropeptide receptor mRNA levels also predicted greater symptom severity for core ASD features (i.e., social impairments and stereotyped behaviors), but were unrelated to intellectual impairment, an associated feature of ASD. Findings from this research highlight the value of assessing multiple related biological measures, and their relative contributions, in the same study, and suggest that low blood neuropeptide receptor availability may be a promising biomarker of disease presence and symptom severity in ASD.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by impaired ability to properly implement environmental stimuli that are essential to achieve a state of social and cultural exchange. Indeed, the main features of ASD are impairments of interpersonal relationships, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors. These aspects are often accompanied by several comorbidities such as motor delay, praxis impairment, gait abnormalities, insomnia, and above all epilepsy. Genetic analyses of autistic individuals uncovered deleterious mutations in several K(+) channel types strengthening the notion that their intrinsic dysfunction may play a central etiologic role in ASD. However, indirect implication of K(+) channels in ASD has been also reported. For instance, loss of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) results in K(+) channels deregulation, network dysfunction and ASD-like cognitive and behavioral symptoms. This review provides an update on direct and indirect implications of K(+) channels in ASDs. Owing to a mounting body of evidence associating a channelopathy pathogenesis to autism and showing that nearly 500 ion channel proteins are encoded by the human genome, we propose to classify ASDs - whose susceptibility is significantly enhanced by ion channels defects, either in a monogenic or multigenic condition - in a new category named " c hannel A utism S pectrum D isorder" (channelASD; cASD) and introduce a new taxonomy (e.g., Kv x.y-channelASD and likewise Nav x.y-channelASD, Cav x.y-channelASD; etc.). This review also highlights some degree of clinical and genetic overlap between K(+) channelASDs and K(+) channelepsies, whereby such correlation suggests that a subcategory characterized by a channelASD-channelepsy phenotype may be distinguished. Ultimately, this overview aims to further understand the different clinical subgroups and help parse out the distinct biological basis of autism that are essential to establish patient-tailored treatments.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The DSM-IV-TR specifies 12 behavioral features that can occur in hundreds of possible combinations to meet diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper describes the frequency and variability with which the 12 behavioral features are documented in a population-based cohort of 8-year-old children under surveillance for ASD, and examines whether documentation of certain features, alone or in combination with other features, is associated with earlier age of community identification of ASD. METHOD:Statistical analysis of behavioral features documented for a population-based sample of 2,757 children, 8 years old, with ASD in 11 geographically-defined areas in the US participating in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in 2006. RESULTS:The median age at ASD identification was inversely associated with the number of documented behavioral features, decreasing from 8.2 years for children with only seven behavioral features to 3.8 years for children with all 12. Documented impairments in nonverbal communication, pretend play, inflexible routines, and repetitive motor behaviors were associated with earlier identification, whereas impairments in peer relations, conversational ability, and idiosyncratic speech were associated with later identification. CONCLUSIONS:The age dependence of some of the behavioral features leading to an autism diagnosis, as well as the inverse association between age at identification and number of behavioral features documented, have implications for efforts to improve early identification. Progress in achieving early identification and provision of services for children with autism may be limited for those with fewer ASD behavioral features, as well as features likely to be detected at later ages.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by impairments in both social communication and interaction and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors. Although its etiology remains unknown, genetic and environmental risk factors have been associated with this disorder, including the exposure to valproic acid (VPA) during pregnancy. Resveratrol (RSV) is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant molecule known to prevent social impairments in the VPA animal model of autism. This study aimed to analyze the effects of prenatal exposure to VPA, as well as possible preventive effects of RSV, on sensory behavior, the localization of GABAergic parvalbumin (PV+) neurons in sensory brain regions and the expression of proteins of excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Pregnant rats were treated daily with RSV (3.6 mg/kg) from E6.5 to E18.5 and injected with VPA (600 mg/kg) in the E12.5. Male pups were analyzed in Nest Seeking (NS) behavior and in whisker nuisance task (WNT). At P30, the tissues were removed and analyzed by immunofluorescence and western blotting. Our data showed for the first time an altered localization of PV+-neurons in primary sensory cortex and amygdala. We also showed a reduced level of gephyrin in the primary somatosensory area (PSSA) of VPA animals. The treatment with RSV prevented all the aforementioned alterations triggered by VPA. Our data shed light on the relevance of sensory component in ASD and highlights the interplay between RSV and VPA animal model as an important tool to investigate the pathophysiology of ASD.
Project description:Motor disturbances have been widely observed in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and motor problems are currently reported as associated features supporting the diagnosis of ASD in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Studies on this issue reported disturbances in different motor domains, including both gross and fine motor areas as well as coordination, postural control, and standing balance. However, they failed to clearly state whether motor impairments are related to demographical and developmental features of ASD. Both the different methodological approaches assessing motor skills and the heterogeneity in clinical features of participants analyzed have been implicated as contributors to variance in findings. However, the non-linearity of the relationships between variables may account for the inability of the traditional analysis to grasp the core problem suggesting that the "single symptom approach analysis" should be overcome. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are computational adaptive systems inspired by the functioning processes of the human brain particularly adapted to solving non-linear problems. This study aimed to apply the ANNs to reveal the entire spectrum of the relationship between motor skills and clinical variables. Thirty-two male children with ASD [mean age: 48.5 months (SD: 8.8); age range: 30-60 months] were recruited in a tertiary care university hospital. A multidisciplinary comprehensive diagnostic evaluation was associated with a standardized assessment battery for motor skills, the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale-Second Edition. Exploratory analyses were performed through the ANNs. The findings revealed that poor motor skills were a common clinical feature of preschoolers with ASD, relating both to the high level of repetitive behaviors and to the low level of expressive language. Moreover, unobvious trends among motor, cognitive and social skills have been detected. In conclusion, motor abnormalities in preschoolers with ASD were widespread, and the degree of impairment may inform clinicians about the severity of ASD core symptoms. Understanding motor disturbances in children with ASD may be relevant to clarify neurobiological basis and ultimately to guide the development of tailored treatments.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by pronounced social and communication deficits and stereotyped behaviours. Recent psychosocial and neuroimaging studies have highlighted reward-processing deficits and reduced dopamine (DA) mesolimbic circuit reactivity in ASD patients. However, the neurobiological and molecular determinants of these deficits remain undetermined. Mouse models recapitulating ASD-like phenotypes could help generate hypotheses about the origin and neurophysiological underpinnings of clinically relevant traits. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), behavioural and molecular readouts to probe dopamine neurotransmission responsivity in BTBR T(+) Itpr3(tf)/J mice (BTBR), an inbred mouse line widely used to model ASD-like symptoms owing to its robust social and communication deficits, and high level of repetitive stereotyped behaviours. C57BL/6J (B6) mice were used as normosocial reference comparators. DA reuptake inhibition with GBR 12909 produced significant striatal DA release in both strains, but failed to elicit fMRI activation in widespread forebrain areas of BTBR mice, including mesolimbic reward and striatal terminals. In addition, BTBR mice exhibited no appreciable motor responses to GBR 12909. DA D1 receptor-dependent behavioural and signalling responses were found to be unaltered in BTBR mice, whereas dramatic reductions in pre- and postsynaptic DA D2 and adenosine A2A receptor function was observed in these animals. Overall these results document profoundly compromised DA D2-mediated neurotransmission in BTBR mice, a finding that is likely to have a role in the distinctive social and behavioural deficits exhibited by these mice. Our results call for a deeper investigation of the role of dopaminergic dysfunction in mouse lines exhibiting ASD-like phenotypes, and possibly in ASD patient populations.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition whose primary features include social communication and interaction impairments with restricted or repetitive motor movements. No approved treatment for the core symptoms is available and considerable research efforts aim at identifying effective therapeutic strategies. Emerging evidence suggests that altered endocannabinoid signaling and immune dysfunction might contribute to ASD pathogenesis. In this scenario, phytocannabinoids could hold great pharmacological potential due to their combined capacities to act either directly or indirectly on components of the endocannabinoid system and to modulate immune functions. Among all plant-cannabinoids, the phytocannabinoid cannabidivarin (CBDV) was recently shown to reduce motor impairments and cognitive deficits in animal models of Rett syndrome, a condition showing some degree of overlap with autism, raising the possibility that CBDV might have therapeutic potential in ASD. Here, we investigated the ability of CBDV treatment to reverse or prevent ASD-like behaviors in male rats prenatally exposed to valproic acid (VPA; 500 mg/kg i.p.; gestation day 12.5). The offspring received CBDV according to two different protocols: symptomatic (0.2/2/20/100 mg/kg i.p.; postnatal days 34-58) and preventative (2/20 mg/kg i.p.; postnatal days 19-32). The major efficacy of CBDV was observed at the dose of 20 mg/kg for both treatment schedules. CBDV in symptomatic rats recovered social impairments, social novelty preference, short-term memory deficits, repetitive behaviors and hyperlocomotion whereas preventative treatment reduced sociability and social novelty deficits, short-term memory impairments and hyperlocomotion, without affecting stereotypies. As dysregulations in the endocannabinoid system and neuroinflammatory markers contribute to the development of some ASD phenotypes in the VPA model, neurochemical studies were performed after symptomatic treatment to investigate possible CBDV's effects on the endocannabinoid system, inflammatory markers and microglia activation in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Prenatal VPA exposure increased CB1 receptor, FAAH and MAGL levels, enhanced GFAP, CD11b, and TNF? levels and triggered microglia activation restricted to the hippocampus. All these alterations were restored after CBDV treatment. These data provide preclinical evidence in support of the ability of CBDV to ameliorate behavioral abnormalities resembling core and associated symptoms of ASD. At the neurochemical level, symptomatic CBDV restores hippocampal endocannabinoid signaling and neuroinflammation induced by prenatal VPA exposure.