Prenatal exposure of rats to valproic acid reproduces the cerebellar anomalies associated with autism
ABSTRACT Abnormalities in anatomy and function of the cranial nerve motor nuclei have been demonstrated in some people with autism and can be modeled in rats by exposure to valproic acid during neural tube closure. Reductions in Purkinje cell number and cerebellar volume, particularly of the posterior lobe, have also been reported in people with autism. Thus, a stereological examination of cerebellar morphology was undertaken in valproate-exposed rats. Compared to controls, rats exposed to a single dose of 600-mg/kg sodium valproate on embryonic day 12.5 had significantly fewer Purkinje cells in the cerebellar vermis and a reduction short of significant in the hemispheres. The diminished cell numbers reflect reductions in tissue volume throughout the cerebellum, rather than cell density, which was unaffected in all regions. Within the vermis, the reduction in volume was significantly greater in the posterior lobe than in the anterior lobe. The results parallel those reported for human cases of autism.
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ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by repetitive behavior and impaired social communication and interactions. Apart from these core symptoms, a significant number of ASD individuals display higher levels of anxiety and some ASD individuals exhibit impaired emotional learning. We therefore sought to further examine anxiety and emotional learning in an environmentally induced animal model of ASD that utilizes the administration of the known teratogen, valproic acid (VPA) during gestation. Specifically we exposed dams to one of two different doses of VPA (500 and 600 mg/kg) or vehicle on day 12.5 of gestation and examined the resultant progeny. Our data indicate that animals exposed to VPA in utero exhibit enhanced anxiety in the open field test and normal object recognition memory compared to control animals. Animals exposed to 500 mg/kg of VPA displayed normal acquisition of auditory fear conditioning, and exhibited reduced extinction of fear memory and normal litter survival rates as compared to control animals. We observed that animals exposed to 600 mg/kg of VPA exhibited a significant reduction in the acquisition of fear conditioning, a significant reduction in social interaction and a significant reduction in litter survival rates as compared to control animals. VPA (600 mg/kg) exposed animals exhibited similar shock sensitivity and hearing as compared to control animals indicating the fear conditioning deficit observed in these animals was not likely due to sensory deficits, but rather due to deficits in learning or memory retrieval. In conclusion, considering that progeny from dams exposed to rather similar doses of VPA exhibit striking differences in emotional learning, the VPA model may serve as a useful tool to explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms that contribute to not only ASD, but also emotional learning.Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 11/2014; 8:387. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00387 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The molecular mechanisms underlying autistic behaviors remain to be elucidated. Mutations in genes linked to autism adversely affect molecules regulating dendritic spine formation, function and plasticity, and some increase the mammalian target of rapamycin, mTOR, a regulator of protein synthesis at spines. Here, we investigated whether the Akt/mTOR pathway is disrupted in idiopathic autism and in rats exposed to valproic acid, an animal model exhibiting autistic-like behavior. Components of the mTOR pathway were assayed by Western blotting in postmortem fusiform gyrus samples from 11 subjects with idiopathic autism and 13 controls and in valproic acid versus saline-exposed rat neocortex. Additionally, protein levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor receptor (TrkB) isoforms and the postsynaptic organizing molecule PSD-95 were measured in autistic versus control subjects. Full-length TrkB, PI3K, Akt, phosphorylated and total mTOR, p70S6 kinase, eIF4B and PSD-95 were reduced in autistic versus control fusiform gyrus. Similarly, phosphorylated and total Akt, mTOR and 4E-BP1 and phosphorylated S6 protein were decreased in valproic acid- versus saline-exposed rats. However, no changes in 4E-BP1 or eIF4E were found in autistic brains. In contrast to some monogenic disorders with high rates of autism, our data demonstrate down-regulation of the Akt/mTOR pathway, specifically via p70S6K/eIF4B, in idiopathic autism. These findings suggest that disruption of this pathway in either direction is widespread in autism and can have adverse consequences for synaptic function. The use of valproic acid, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, in rats successfully modeled these changes, implicating an epigenetic mechanism in these pathway disruptions.12/2015; 3(1):3. DOI:10.1186/s40478-015-0184-4
Neuroscience Letters 01/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neulet.2014.12.014 · 2.06 Impact Factor