Autism-Associated Insertion Mutation (InsG) of Shank3 Exon 21 Causes Impaired Synaptic Transmission and Behavioral Deficits

SHANK3 (also known as PROSAP2) is a postsynaptic scaffolding protein at excitatory synapses in which mutations and deletions have been implicated in patients with idiopathic autism, Phelan-McDermid (aka 22q13 microdeletion) syndrome, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. In this study, we have created a novel mouse model of human autism caused by the insertion of a single guanine nucleotide into exon 21 (Shank3(G)). The resulting frameshift causes a premature STOP codon and loss of major higher molecular weight Shank3 isoforms at the synapse. Shank3(G/G) mice exhibit deficits in hippocampus-dependent spatial learning, impaired motor coordination, altered response to novelty, and sensory processing deficits. At the cellular level, Shank3(G/G) mice also exhibit impaired hippocampal excitatory transmission and plasticity as well as changes in baseline NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses. This work identifies clear alterations in synaptic function and behavior in a novel, genetically accurate mouse model of autism mimicking an autism-associated insertion mutation. Furthermore, these findings lay the foundation for future studies aimed to validate and study region-selective and temporally selective genetic reversal studies in the Shank3(G/G) mouse that was engineered with such future experiments in mind.

Keywords: Phelan–McDermid syndrome; Shank3; autism; behavior; postsynaptic density; synaptic plasticity.



Biology and Biomarkers

Haley Speed