Immature Neurons and Radial Glia, But Not Astrocytes or Microglia, Are Altered in Adult Cntnap2 and Shank3 Mice, Models of Autism

Date Published:

2016 Sep-Oct

Abstract:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often associated with cognitive deficits and excessive anxiety. Neuroimaging studies have shown atypical structure and neural connectivity in the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and striatum, regions associated with cognitive function and anxiety regulation. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is involved in many behaviors that are disrupted in ASD, including cognition, anxiety, and social behaviors. Additionally, glial cells, such as astrocytes and microglia, are important for modulating neural connectivity during development, and glial dysfunction has been hypothesized to be a key contributor to the development of ASD. Cells with astroglial characteristics are known to serve as progenitor cells in the developing and adult brain. Here, we examined adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus, as well as astroglia and microglia in the hippocampus, mPFC, and striatum of two models that display autism-like phenotypes, Cntnap2 and Shank3 transgenic mice. We found a substantial decrease in the number of immature neurons and radial glial progenitor cells in the ventral hippocampus of both transgenic models compared with wild-type controls. No consistent differences were detected in the number or size of astrocytes or microglia in any other brain region examined. Future work is needed to explore the functional contribution of adult neurogenesis to autism-related behaviors as well as to temporally characterize glial plasticity as it is associated with ASD.