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Hippocampal dysregulation of neurofibromin-dependent pathways is associated with impaired spatial learning in engrailed 2 knock-out mice.

ABSTRACT: Genome-wide association studies indicated the homeobox-containing transcription factor Engrailed-2 (En2) as a candidate gene for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Accordingly, En2 knock-out (En2(-/-)) mice show anatomical and behavioral "ASD-like" features, including decreased sociability and learning deficits. The molecular pathways underlying these deficits in En2(-/-) mice are not known. Deficits in signaling pathways involving neurofibromin and extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) have been associated with impaired learning. Here we investigated the neurofibromin-ERK cascade in the hippocampus of wild-type (WT) and En2(-/-) mice before and after spatial learning testing. When compared with WT littermates, En2(-/-) mice showed impaired performance in the Morris water maze (MWM), which was accompanied by lower expression of the activity-dependent gene Arc. Quantitative RT-PCR, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry experiments showed a marked downregulation of neurofibromin expression in the dentate gyrus of both naive and MWM-treated En2(-/-) mice. ERK phosphorylation, known to be induced in the presence of neurofibromin deficiency, was increased in the dentate gyrus of En2(-/-) mice after MWM. Treatment of En2(-/-) mice with lovastatin, an indirect inhibitor of ERK phosphorylation, markedly reduced ERK phosphorylation in the dentate gyrus, but was unable to rescue learning deficits in MWM-trained mutant mice. Further investigation is needed to unravel the complex molecular mechanisms linking dysregulation of neurofibromin-dependent pathways to spatial learning deficits in the En2 mouse model of ASD.

SUBMITTER: Provenzano G 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6608314 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01


REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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