CYFIP1 overexpression increases fear response in mice but does not affect social or repetitive behavioral phenotypes

Background: CYFIP1, a protein that interacts with FMRP and regulates protein synthesis and actin dynamics, is overexpressed in Dup15q syndrome as well as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While CYFIP1 heterozygosity has been rigorously studied due to its loss in 15q11.2 deletion, Prader-Willi and Angelman syndrome, the effects of CYFIP1 overexpression, as is observed in patients with CYFIP1 duplication, are less well understood.

Methods: We developed and validated a mouse model of human CYFIP1 overexpression (CYFIP1 OE) using qPCR and western blot analysis. We performed a large battery of behavior testing on these mice, including ultrasonic vocalizations, three-chamber social assay, home-cage behavior, Y-maze, elevated plus maze, open field test, Morris water maze, fear conditioning, prepulse inhibition, and the hot plate assay. We also performed RNA sequencing and analysis on the basolateral amygdala.

Results: Extensive behavioral testing in CYFIP1 OE mice reveals no changes in the core behaviors related to ASD: social interactions and repetitive behaviors. However, we did observe mild learning deficits and an exaggerated fear response. Using RNA sequencing of the basolateral amygdala, a region associated with fear response, we observed changes in pathways related to cytoskeletal regulation, oligodendrocytes, and myelination. We also identified GABA-A subunit composition changes in basolateral amygdala neurons, which are essential components of the neural fear conditioning circuit.

Conclusion: Overall, this research identifies the behavioral and molecular consequences of CYFIP1 overexpression and how they contribute to the variable phenotype seen in Dup15q syndrome and in ASD patients with excess CYFIP1.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD); CYFIP1; Dup15q; Fear conditioning; Mouse behavior; Neurodevelopmental disorders; RNA sequencing.