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1.  Negative Allosteric Modulation of the mGluR5 Receptor Reduces Repetitive Behaviors and Rescues Social Deficits in Mouse Models of Autism 
Science translational medicine  2012;4(131):131ra51.
Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and fragile X syndrome were long thought to be medically untreatable, on the assumption that brain dysfunctions were immutably hardwired before diagnosis. Recent revelations that many cases of autism are caused by mutations in genes that control the ongoing formation and maturation of synapses have challenged this dogma. Antagonists of metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5), which modulate excitatory neurotransmission, are in clinical trials for fragile X syndrome, a major genetic cause of intellectual disabilities. About 30% of patients with fragile X syndrome meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. Reasoning by analogy, we considered the mGluR5 receptor as a potential target for intervention in autism. We used BTBR T+tf/J (BTBR) mice, an established model with robust behavioral phenotypes relevant to the three diagnostic behavioral symptoms of autism—unusual social interactions, impaired communication, and repetitive behaviors—to probe the efficacy of a selective negative allosteric modulator of the mGluR5 receptor, GRN-529. GRN-529 reduced repetitive behaviors in three cohorts of BTBR mice at doses that did not induce sedation in control assays of open field locomotion. In addition, the same nonsedating doses reduced the spontaneous stereotyped jumping that characterizes a second inbred strain of mice, C58/J. Further, GRN-529 partially reversed the striking lack of sociability in BTBR mice on some parameters of social approach and reciprocal social interactions. These findings raise the possibility that a single targeted pharmacological intervention may alleviate multiple diagnostic behavioral symptoms of autism.
PMCID: PMC4904784  PMID: 22539775
2.  Developmental Delays and Reduced Pup Ultrasonic Vocalizations but Normal Sociability in Mice Lacking the Postsynaptic Cell Adhesion Protein Neuroligin2 
Behavioural brain research  2012;251:50-64.
Mutations in neurexin and neuroligin genes have been associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism. Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by aberrant reciprocal social interactions, deficits in social communication, and repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behaviors, along with narrow restricted interests. Mouse models have been successfully used to study physiological and behavioral outcomes of mutations in the trans-synaptic neurexin-neuroligin complex. To further understand the behavioral consequences of NEUROLIGIN2 (NLGN2) mutations, we assessed several behavioral phenotypes relevant to autism in neuroligin2 null (Nlgn2-/-), heterozygote (Nlgn2+/-), and wildtype (Nlgn2+/+) littermate control mice. Reduced breeding efficiency and high reactivity to handling was observed in Nlgn2-/- mice, resulting in low numbers of adult mice available for behavioral assessment. Consistent with previous findings, Nlgn2-/- mice displayed normal social behaviors, concomitant with reduced exploratory activity, impaired rotarod performance, and delays on several developmental milestones. No spontaneous stereotypies or repetitive behaviors were detected. Acoustic, tactile, and olfactory sensory information processing as well as sensorimotor gating were not affected. Nlgn2-/- pups isolated from mother and littermates emitted fewer ultrasonic vocalizations and spent less time calling than Nlgn2+/+ littermate controls. The present findings add to the growing literature on the role of neurexins and neuroligins in physiology and behavior relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders.
PMCID: PMC3979986  PMID: 22820233
Neuroligin; GABA; inhibition; autism; schizophrenia; anxiety; social behavior; communication; ultrasonic vocalization
3.  Time-Dependent Compensatory Responses to Chronic Neuroinflammation in Hippocampus and Brainstem: The Potential Role of Glutamate Neurotransmission 
Chronic neuroinflammation is characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases and is present during very early stages, yet significant pathology and behavioral deficits do not manifest until advanced age. We investigated the consequences of experimentally-induced chronic neuroinflammation within the hippocampus and brainstem of young (4 mo) F-344 rats. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was infused continuously into the IVth ventricle for 2, 4 or 8 weeks. The number of MHC II immunoreactive microglia in the brain continued to increase throughout the infusion period. In contrast, performance in the Morris water maze was impaired after 4 weeks but recovered by 8 weeks. Likewise, a transient loss of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the substantia nigra and locus coeruleus was observed after 2 weeks, but returned to control levels by 4 weeks of continuous LPS infusion. These data suggest that direct activation of microglia is sufficient to drive, but not sustain, spatial memory impairment and a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase production in young rats. Our previous studies suggest that chronic neuroinflammation elevates extracellular glutamate and that this elevation underlies the spatial memory impairment. In the current study, increased levels of GLT1 and SNAP25 in the hippocampus corresponded with the resolution of performance deficit. Increased expression of SNAP25 is consistent with reduced glutamate release from axonal terminals while increased GLT1 is consistent with enhanced clearance of extracellular glutamate. These data demonstrate the capacity of the brain to compensate for the presence of chronic neuroinflammation, despite continued activation of microglia, through changes in the regulation of the glutamatergic system.
PMCID: PMC3939715  PMID: 24600537
Neuroinflammation; Rat; Lipopolysaccharide; Alzheimer; Parkinson; Glutamate; Excitatory amino acid transporter; SNAP25
4.  A Randomized Trial of Rectal Indomethacin to Prevent Post-ERCP Pancreatitis 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(15):1414-1422.
Preliminary research suggests that rectally administered nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs may reduce the incidence of pancreatitis after endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
In this multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial, we assigned patients at elevated risk for post-ERCP pancreatitis to receive a single dose of rectal indomethacin or placebo immediately after ERCP. Patients were determined to be at high risk on the basis of validated patient- and procedure-related risk factors. The primary outcome was post-ERCP pancreatitis, which was defined as new upper abdominal pain, an elevation in pancreatic enzymes to at least three times the upper limit of the normal range 24 hours after the procedure, and hospitalization for at least 2 nights.
A total of 602 patients were enrolled and completed follow-up. The majority of patients (82%) had a clinical suspicion of sphincter of Oddi dysfunction. Post-ERCP pancreatitis developed in 27 of 295 patients (9.2%) in the indomethacin group and in 52 of 307 patients (16.9%) in the placebo group (P = 0.005). Moderate-to-severe pancreatitis developed in 13 patients (4.4%) in the indomethacin group and in 27 patients (8.8%) in the placebo group (P = 0.03).
Among patients at high risk for post-ERCP pancreatitis, rectal indomethacin significantly reduced the incidence of the condition. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; number, NCT00820612.)
PMCID: PMC3339271  PMID: 22494121
5.  Sociability and Motor Functions in Shank1 Mutant Mice 
Brain research  2010;1380:120-137.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by aberrant reciprocal social interactions, impaired communication, and repetitive behaviors. While the etiology remains unclear, strong evidence exists for a genetic component, and several synaptic genes have been implicated. SHANK genes encode a family of synaptic scaffolding proteins located postsynaptically on excitatory synapses. Mutations in SHANK genes have been detected in several autistic individuals. To understand the consequences of SHANK mutations relevant to the diagnostic and associated symptoms of autism, comprehensive behavioral phenotyping on a line of Shank1 mutant mice was conducted on multiple measures of social interactions, social olfaction, repetitive behaviors, anxiety-related behaviors, motor functions, and a series of control measures for physical abilities. Results from our comprehensive behavioral phenotyping battery indicated that adult Shank1 null mutant mice were similar to their wildtype and heterozygous littermates on standardized measures of general health, neurological reflexes and sensory skills. Motor functions were reduced in the null mutants on open field activity, rotarod, and wire hang, replicating and extending previous findings (Hung et al., 2008). A partial anxiety-like phenotype was detected in the null mutants in some components of the light ↔ dark task, as previously reported (Hung et al., 2008) but not in the elevated plus-maze. Juvenile reciprocal social interactions did not differ across genotypes. Interpretation of adult social approach was confounded by a lack of normal sociability in wildtype and heterozygous littermates. All genotypes were able to discriminate social odors on an olfactory habituation/dishabituation task. All genotypes displayed relatively high levels of repetitive self-grooming. Our findings support the interpretation that Shank1 null mice do not demonstrate autism-relevant social deficits, but confirm and extend a role for Shank1 in motor functions.
PMCID: PMC3041833  PMID: 20868654
6.  Low Stress Reactivity and Neuroendocrine Factors in the BTBR T+tf/J Mouse Model of Autism 
Neuroscience  2010;171(4):1197-1208.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormal reciprocal social interactions, communication deficits, and repetitive behaviors with restricted interests. BTBR T+tf/J (BTBR) is an inbred mouse strain that displays robust behavioral phenotypes with analogies to all three of the diagnostic symptoms of autism, including low social interactions, reduced vocalizations in social settings, and high levels of repetitive self-grooming. Autism-relevant phenotypes in BTBR offer translational tools to discover neurochemical mechanisms underlying unusual mouse behaviors relevant to symptoms of autism. Because repetitive self-grooming in mice may be a displacement behavior elevated by stressors, we investigated neuroendocrine markers of stress and behavioral reactivity to stressors in BTBR mice, as compared to C57BL/6J, a standard inbred strain with high sociability. Radioimmunoassays replicated previous findings that circulating corticosterone is higher in the BTBR than in B6. Higher basal glucocorticoid receptor mRNA and higher oxytocin peptide levels were detected in the brains of BTBR as compared to B6. No significant differences were detected in corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) peptide or CRF mRNA. In response to behavioral stressors, BTBR and B6 were generally similar on behavioral tasks including stress-induced hyperthermia, elevated plus-maze, light ↔ dark exploration, tail flick, acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition. BTBR displayed less reactivity than B6 to a noxious thermal stimulus in the hot plate, and less immobility than B6 in both the forced swim and tail suspension depression-related tasks. BTBR, therefore, exhibited less depression-like scores than B6 on two standard tests sensitive to antidepressants, did not differ from B6 on two well-validated anxiety-like behaviors, and did not exhibit unusual stress reactivity to sensory stimuli. Our findings support the interpretation that autism-relevant social deficits, vocalizations, and repetitive behaviors are not the result of abnormal stress reactivity in the BTBR mouse model of autism.
PMCID: PMC2991427  PMID: 20888890
autism; mouse models; BTBR

Results 1-6 (6)