Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by impairments in social interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) through GABAA receptor signaling in the immature brain plays a key role in the development of neuronal circuits. Excitatory/inhibitory imbalance in the mature brain has been investigated as a pathophysiological mechanism of ASD. However, whether and how disturbances of GABA signaling in embryos that are caused by GABAA receptor inhibitors cause ASD-like pathophysiology are poorly understood. The present study examined whether exposure to the GABAA receptor antagonist picrotoxin causes ASD-like pathophysiology in offspring by conducting behavioral tests from the juvenile period to adulthood and performing gene expression analyses in mature mouse brains. Here, we found that male mice that were prenatally exposed to picrotoxin exhibited a reduction of active interaction time in the social interaction test in both adolescence and adulthood. The gene expression analyses showed that picrotoxin-exposed male mice exhibited a significant increase in the gene expression of odorant receptors. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis showed a strong correlation between social interaction and enrichment of the “odorant binding” pathway gene module. Our findings suggest that exposure to a GABAA receptor inhibitor during the embryonic period induces ASD-like behavior, and impairments in odorant function may contribute to social deficits in offspring.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health