Presentation_1_Dysregulation of Parvalbumin Expression in the Cntnap2−/− Mouse Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder.pdf

Due to the complex and heterogeneous etiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), identification of convergent pathways and/or common molecular endpoints in the pathophysiological processes of ASD development are highly needed in order to facilitate treatment approaches targeted at the core symptoms. We recently reported on decreased expression of the Ca2+-binding protein parvalbumin (PV) in three well-characterized ASD mouse models, Shank1−/−, Shank3B−/− and in utero VPA-exposed mice. Moreover, PV-deficient mice (PV+/− and PV−/−) were found to show behavioral impairments and neuroanatomical changes closely resembling those frequently found in human ASD individuals. Here, we combined a stereology-based approach with molecular biology methods to assess changes in the subpopulation of PV-expressing (Pvalb) interneurons in the recently characterized contactin-associated protein-like 2 (Cntnap2−/−) knockout mouse model of ASD. The CNTNAP2 gene codes for a synaptic cell adhesion molecule involved in neurodevelopmental processes; mutations affecting the human CNTNAP2 locus are associated with human ASD core symptoms, in particular speech and language problems. We demonstrate that in Cntnap2−/− mice, no loss of Pvalb neurons is evident in ASD-associated brain regions including the striatum, somatosensory cortex (SSC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), shown by the unaltered number of Pvalb neurons ensheathed by VVA-positive perineuronal nets. However, the number of PV-immunoreactive (PV+) neurons and also PV protein levels were decreased in the striatum of Cntnap2−/− mice indicating that PV expression levels in some striatal Pvalb neurons dropped below the detection limit, yet without a loss of Pvalb neurons. No changes in PV+ neuron numbers were detected in the cortical regions investigated and also cortical PV expression levels were unaltered. Considering that Cntnap2 shows high expression levels in the striatum during human and mouse embryonic development and that the cortico-striato-thalamic circuitry is important for speech and language development, alterations in striatal PV expression and associated (homeostatic) adaptations are likely to play an important role in Cntnap2−/− mice and, assumingly, in human ASD patients with known Cntnap2 mutations.