Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 37008785
Link to DOI – 10.3389/fnmol.2023.1139118
Front Mol Neurosci 2023 ; 16(): 1139118
Autism is characterized by atypical social communication and stereotyped behaviors. Mutations in the gene encoding the synaptic scaffolding protein SHANK3 are detected in 1-2% of patients with autism and intellectual disability, but the mechanisms underpinning the symptoms remain largely unknown. Here, we characterized the behavior of Shank3 Δ11/Δ11 mice from 3 to 12 months of age. We observed decreased locomotor activity, increased stereotyped self-grooming and modification of socio-sexual interaction compared to wild-type littermates. We then used RNAseq on four brain regions of the same animals to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs). DEGs were identified mainly in the striatum and were associated with synaptic transmission (e.g., Grm2, Dlgap1), G-protein-signaling pathways (e.g., Gnal, Prkcg1, and Camk2g), as well as excitation/inhibition balance (e.g., Gad2). Downregulated and upregulated genes were enriched in the gene clusters of medium-sized spiny neurons expressing the dopamine 1 (D1-MSN) and the dopamine 2 receptor (D2-MSN), respectively. Several DEGs (Cnr1, Gnal, Gad2, and Drd4) were reported as striosome markers. By studying the distribution of the glutamate decarboxylase GAD65, encoded by Gad2, we showed that the striosome compartment of Shank3 Δ11/Δ11 mice was enlarged and displayed much higher expression of GAD65 compared to wild-type mice. Altogether, these results indicate altered gene expression in the striatum of Shank3-deficient mice and strongly suggest, for the first time, that the excessive self-grooming of these mice is related to an imbalance in the striatal striosome and matrix compartments.