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Prenatal β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade regulates adult social and stereotypic behaviors

Abstract

Social interaction is a fundamental behavior in all animal species, but the developmental timing of the social neural circuit formation and the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing its formation are poorly understood. We generated a mouse model with mutations in two Disheveled genes, Dvl1 and Dvl3, that displays adult social and repetitive behavioral abnormalities associated with transient embryonic brain enlargement during deep layer cortical neuron formation. These phenotypes were mediated by the embryonic expansion of basal neural progenitor cells (NPCs) via deregulation of a β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade. Transient pharmacological activation of the canonical Wnt pathway during this period of early corticogenesis rescued the β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade and the embryonic brain phenotypes. Remarkably, this embryonic treatment prevented adult behavioral deficits and partially rescued abnormal brain structure in Dvl mutant mice. Our findings define a mechanism that links fetal brain development and adult behavior, demonstrating a fetal origin for social and repetitive behavior deficits seen in disorders such as autism.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by NINDS grants R01 NS073159 (AWB) and R01NS079231 (RYB & NA), the Simons Foundation SFARI #256769 (NA), the Ontario Brain Institute (JPL), and a Autism Speaks Translational Postdoctoral Fellowship #7587 (HB). Behavioral data were obtained with the help of the Gladstone Institute Behavioral Core (supported by NIH grant P30NS065780). This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute on Aging. We thank Peter Scacheri for his critical comments on the manuscript.

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Belinson, H., Nakatani, J., Babineau, B. et al. Prenatal β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade regulates adult social and stereotypic behaviors. Mol Psychiatry 21, 1417–1433 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2015.207

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