Mutations in the Cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) gene cause severe neurodevelopmental disorders. Recently we have generated Cdkl5 KO mice by targeting exon 2 on the C57BL/6N background, and demonstrated postsynaptic overaccumulation of GluN2B-con-taining N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the hippocampus. In the current study, we subjected the Cdkl5 KO mice to a battery of comprehensive behavioral tests, aiming to reveal the effects of loss of CDKL5 in a whole perspective of motor, emotional, social, and cognition/memory functions, and to identify its undetermined roles. The neurological screen, rotarod, hot plate, prepulse inhibition, light/dark transition, open field, elevated plus maze, Porsolt forced swim, tail suspension, one-chamber and three-chamber social interaction, 24-h home cage monitoring, contextual and cued fear conditioning, Barnes maze, and T-maze tests were applied on adult Cdkl5 -/Y and +/Y mice. Cdkl5 -/Y mice showed a mild alteration in the gait. Analyses of emotional behaviors revealed significantly enhanced anxiety-like behaviors of Cdkl5 -/Y mice. Depressive-like behaviors and social interaction of Cdkl5 -/Y mice were uniquely altered. The contextual and cued fear conditioning of Cdkl5 -/Y mice were comparable to control mice; however, Cdkl5 -/Y mice showed a significantly increased freezing time and a significantly decreased distance traveled during the pretone period in the altered context. Both acquisition and long-term retention of spatial reference memory were significantly impaired. The morphometric analysis of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons revealed impaired dendritic arborization and immature spine development in Cdkl5 -/Y mice. These results indicate that CDKL5 plays significant roles in regulating emotional behaviors especially on anxiety- and fear-related responses, and in both acquisition and long-term retention of spatial reference memory, which suggests that focus and special attention should be paid to the specific mechanisms of these deficits in the CDKL5 deficiency disorder.
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