A New Neurobehavioral Model of Autism in Mice: Pre- and Postnatal Exposure to Sodium Valproate
ABSTRACT Autism symptoms, including impairments in language development, social interactions, and motor skills, have been difficult to model in rodents. Since children exposed in utero to sodium valproate (VPA) demonstrate behavioral and neuroanatomical abnormalities similar to those seen in autism, the neurodevelopmental effects of this antiepileptic agent were examined in mice following its pre- or postnatal administration. Exposed pups were evaluated in a battery of neurodevelopmental procedures designed to assess VPA-induced retardation (wherein a behavior fails to mature on schedule), regression (wherein a behavior does mature on time but then deteriorates), or intrusions (wherein normal behaviors are overshadowed by stereotypic or self-injurious behaviors). The resulting observations were interpreted in the context of this new strategy to model autism.
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ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a cluster of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in communication, social interest and stereotypical behaviour. Dysfunction of the intestinal tract is reported in patients with ASD and implicated in the development and severity of ASD symptoms. However, more research is required to investigate the association of intestinal problems with ASD and the potential underlying mechanisms. The purpose of this study was to investigate comorbid symptoms of intestinal inflammation in a murine model of ASD induced by prenatal exposure to valproic acid (VPA). Pregnant BALB/c females were treated subcutaneously with 600 mg/kg VPA or phosphate buffered saline on gestational day 11. Offspring were housed with their mother until weaning on postnatal day 21 (P21). All pups were exposed to a social behaviour test on P28. Inflammatory correlates and activity of the serotonergic system were measured in brain and intestinal tissue. Here we demonstrate, in addition to reduced social behaviour and increased expression of neuroinflammatory markers in the brain, that VPA in utero- exposed male offspring showed epithelial cell loss and neutrophil infiltration in the intestinal tract. Furthermore, reduced levels of serotonin were not only observed the prefrontal cortex and amygdala of VPA in utero- exposed males, but also in the small intestine. Overall, we demonstrate that gender-specific inflammatory conditions are present in the small intestines of VPA in utero- exposed mice and are accompanied by a disturbed serotonergic system in the brain as well as in the intestinal tract.Brain Behavior and Immunity 12/2013; 37. DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2013.12.004 · 6.13 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Valproic acid (VPA) is a blocker of histone deacetylase widely used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorders, and migraine; its administration during pregnancy increases the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the child. Thus, prenatal VPA exposure has emerged as a rodent model of ASD. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effect of prenatal administration of VPA (500 mg/kg) at E12.5 on the exploratory behavior and locomotor activity in a novel environment, as well as on neuronal morphological rearrangement in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), in the hippocampus, in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), and in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) at three different ages: immediately after weaning (postnatal day 21 [PD21]), prepubertal (PD35) and postpubertal (PD70) ages. Hyper-locomotion was observed in a novel environment in VPA animals at PD21 and PD70. Interestingly, exploratory behavior assessed by the hole board test at PD70 showed a reduced frequency but an increase in the duration of head-dippings in VPA-animals compared to vehicle-treated animals. In addition, the latency to the first head-dip was longer in prenatal VPA-treated animals at PD70. Quantitative morphological analysis of dendritic spine density revealed a reduced number of spines at PD70 in the PFC, dorsal hippocampus and BLA, with an increase in the dendritic spine density in NAcc and ventral hippocampus, in prenatal VPA-treated rats. In addition, at PD70 increases in neuronal arborization were observed in the NAcc, layer 3 of the PFC, and BLA, with retracted neuronal arborization in the ventral and dorsal hippocampus. Our results extend the list of altered behaviors (exploratory behavior) detected in this model of ASD, and indicate that the VPA behavioral phenotype is accompanied by previously undescribed morphological rearrangement in limbic regions.Neuroscience 03/2013; 241:170–187. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.03.030 · 3.33 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: In utero exposure of rodents to valproic acid (VPA), a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, has been proposed to induce an adult phenotype with behavioural characteristics reminiscent of those observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We have evaluated the face validity of this model in terms of social cognition deficits which are a major core symptom of ASD. We employed the social approach avoidance paradigm as a measure of social reciprocity, detection of biological motion that is crucial to social interactions, and spatial learning as an indicator of dorsal stream processing of social cognition and found each parameter to be significantly impaired in Wistar rats with prior in utero exposure to VPA. We found no significant change in the expression of neural cell adhesion molecule polysialylation state (NCAM PSA), a measure of construct validity, but a complete inability to increase its glycosylation state which is necessary to mount the neuroplastic response associated with effective spatial learning. Finally, in all cases, we found chronic HDAC inhibition, with either pan-specific or HDAC1-3 isoform-specific inhibitors, to significantly ameliorate deficits in both social cognition and its associated neuroplastic response. We conclude that in utero exposure to VPA provides a robust animal model for the social cognitive deficits of ASD and a potential screen for the development of novel therapeutics for this condition.Neuropharmacology 06/2012; 63(4):750-60. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.05.042 · 4.82 Impact Factor