Neuronal overexpression of Ube3a isoform 2 causes behavioral impairments and neuroanatomical pathology relevant to 15q11.2-q13.3 duplication syndrome
Maternally derived copy number gains of human chromosome 15q11.2-q13.3 (Dup15q syndrome or Dup15q) cause intellectual disability, epilepsy, developmental delay, hypotonia, speech impairments, and minor dysmorphic features. Dup15q syndrome is one of the most common and penetrant chromosomal abnormalities observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although ∼40 genes are located in the 15q11.2-q13.3 region, overexpression of the ubiquitin-protein E3A ligase (UBE3A) gene is thought to be the predominant molecular cause of the phenotypes observed in Dup15q syndrome. The UBE3A gene demonstrates maternal-specific expression in neurons and loss of maternal UBE3A causes Angelman syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder with some overlapping neurological features to Dup15q. To directly test the hypothesis that overexpression of UBE3A is an important underlying molecular cause of neurodevelopmental dysfunction, we developed and characterized a mouse overexpressing Ube3a isoform 2 in excitatory neurons. Ube3a isoform 2 is conserved between mouse and human and known to play key roles in neuronal function. Transgenic mice overexpressing Ube3a isoform 2 in excitatory forebrain neurons exhibited increased anxiety-like behaviors, learning impairments, and reduced seizure thresholds. However, these transgenic mice displayed normal social approach, social interactions, and repetitive motor stereotypies that are relevant to ASD. Reduced forebrain, hippocampus, striatum, amygdala, and cortical volume were also observed. Altogether, these findings show neuronal overexpression of Ube3a isoform 2 causes phenotypes translatable to neurodevelopmental disorders.