Negative Allosteric Modulation of the mGluR5 Receptor Reduces Repetitive Behaviors and Rescues Social Deficits in Mouse Models of Autism

Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-3730, USA.
Science translational medicine (Impact Factor: 14.41). 04/2012; 4(131):131ra51. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003501
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and fragile X syndrome were long thought to be medically untreatable, on the assumption that brain dysfunctions were immutably hardwired before diagnosis. Recent revelations that many cases of autism are caused by mutations in genes that control the ongoing formation and maturation of synapses have challenged this dogma. Antagonists of metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5), which modulate excitatory neurotransmission, are in clinical trials for fragile X syndrome, a major genetic cause of intellectual disabilities. About 30% of patients with fragile X syndrome meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. Reasoning by analogy, we considered the mGluR5 receptor as a potential target for intervention in autism. We used BTBR T+tf/J (BTBR) mice, an established model with robust behavioral phenotypes relevant to the three diagnostic behavioral symptoms of autism--unusual social interactions, impaired communication, and repetitive behaviors--to probe the efficacy of a selective negative allosteric modulator of the mGluR5 receptor, GRN-529. GRN-529 reduced repetitive behaviors in three cohorts of BTBR mice at doses that did not induce sedation in control assays of open field locomotion. In addition, the same nonsedating doses reduced the spontaneous stereotyped jumping that characterizes a second inbred strain of mice, C58/J. Further, GRN-529 partially reversed the striking lack of sociability in BTBR mice on some parameters of social approach and reciprocal social interactions. These findings raise the possibility that a single targeted pharmacological intervention may alleviate multiple diagnostic behavioral symptoms of autism.

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    ABSTRACT: An important diagnostic criterion for social communication deficits in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are difficulties in adjusting behavior to suit different social contexts. While the BTBR T+tf/J (BTBR) inbred strain of mice is one of the most commonly used mouse models for ASD, little is known about whether BTBR mice display deficits in detecting changes in social context and their ability to adjust to them. Here, it was tested therefore whether the emission of isolation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) in BTBR mouse pups is affected by the social odor context, in comparison to the standard control strain with high sociability, C57BL/6J (B6). It is known that the presence of odors from mothers and littermates leads to a calming of the isolated mouse pup, and hence to a reduction in isolation-induced USV emission. In accordance with their behavioral phenotypes with relevance to all diagnostic core symptoms of ASD, it was predicted that BTBR mouse pups would not display a calming response when tested under soiled bedding conditions with home cage bedding material containing maternal odors, and that similar isolation-induced USV emission rates would be seen in BTBR mice tested under clean and soiled bedding conditions. Unexpectedly, however, the present findings show that BTBR mouse pups display such a calming response and emit fewer isolation-induced USV when tested under soiled as compared to clean bedding conditions, similar to B6 mouse pups. Yet, in contrast to B6 mouse pups, which emitted isolation-induced USV with shorter call durations and lower levels of frequency modulation under soiled bedding conditions, social odor context had no effect on acoustic call features in BTBR mouse pups. This indicates that the BTBR mouse model for ASD does not display deficits in detecting changes in social context, but has a limited ability and/or reduced motivation to adjust to them.
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    ABSTRACT: Although the MAP kinase-interacting kinases (MNKs) have been known for >15 years, their roles in the regulation of protein synthesis have remained obscure. Here, we explore the involvement of the MNKs in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-stimulated protein synthesis in cortical neurons from mice. Using a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches, we show that BDNF-induced upregulation of protein synthesis requires MEK/ERK signaling and the downstream kinase, MNK1, which phosphorylates eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4E. Translation initiation is mediated by the interaction of eIF4E with the m(7)GTP cap of mRNA and with eIF4G. The latter interaction is inhibited by the interactions of eIF4E with partner proteins, such as CYFIP1, which acts as a translational repressor. We find that BDNF induces the release of CYFIP1 from eIF4E, and that this depends on MNK1. Finally, using a novel combination of BONCAT and SILAC, we identify a subset of proteins whose synthesis is upregulated by BDNF signaling via MNK1 in neurons. Interestingly, this subset of MNK1-sensitive proteins is enriched for functions involved in neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity. Additionally, we find significant overlap between our subset of proteins whose synthesis is regulated by MNK1 and those encoded by known FMRP-binding mRNAs. Together, our data implicate MNK1 as a key component of BDNF-mediated translational regulation in neurons. Copyright © 2015 Genheden et al.
    The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 01/2015; 35(3):972-84. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2641-14.2015 · 6.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mouse models of neuropsychiatric diseases provide a platform for mechanistic understanding and development of new therapies. We previously demonstrated that knockout of the mouse homolog of CNTNAP2 (contactin-associated protein-like 2), in which mutations cause cortical dysplasia and focal epilepsy (CDFE) syndrome, displays many features that parallel those of the human disorder. Because CDFE has high penetrance for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we performed an in vivo screen for drugs that ameliorate abnormal social behavior in Cntnap2 mutant mice and found that acute administration of the neuropeptide oxytocin improved social deficits. We found a decrease in the number of oxytocin immunoreactive neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus in mutant mice and an overall decrease in brain oxytocin levels. Administration of a selective melanocortin receptor 4 agonist, which causes endogenous oxytocin release, also acutely rescued the social deficits, an effect blocked by an oxytocin antagonist. We confirmed that oxytocin neurons mediated the behavioral improvement by activating endogenous oxytocin neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamus with Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD). Last, we showed that chronic early postnatal treatment with oxytocin led to more lasting behavioral recovery and restored oxytocin immunoreactivity in the PVN. These data demonstrate dysregulation of the oxytocin system in Cntnap2 knockout mice and suggest that there may be critical developmental windows for optimal treatment to rectify this deficit. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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