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Autistic-like social behaviour in Shank2-mutant mice improved by restoring NMDA receptor function


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of conditions characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. ASD is a highly heritable disorder involving various genetic determinants1. Shank2 (also known as ProSAP1) is a multi-domain scaffolding protein and signalling adaptor enriched at excitatory neuronal synapses2,3,4, and mutations in the human SHANK2 gene have recently been associated with ASD and intellectual disablility5. Although ASD-associated genes are being increasingly identified and studied using various approaches, including mouse genetics6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16, further efforts are required to delineate important causal mechanisms with the potential for therapeutic application. Here we show that Shank2-mutant (Shank2−/−) mice carrying a mutation identical to the ASD-associated microdeletion in the human SHANK2 gene exhibit ASD-like behaviours including reduced social interaction, reduced social communication by ultrasonic vocalizations, and repetitive jumping. These mice show a marked decrease in NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) glutamate receptor (NMDAR) function. Direct stimulation of NMDARs with d-cycloserine, a partial agonist of NMDARs, normalizes NMDAR function and improves social interaction in Shank2−/− mice. Furthermore, treatment of Shank2−/− mice with a positive allosteric modulator of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), which enhances NMDAR function via mGluR5 activation17, also normalizes NMDAR function and markedly enhances social interaction. These results suggest that reduced NMDAR function may contribute to the development of ASD-like phenotypes in Shank2−/− mice, and mGluR modulation of NMDARs offers a potential strategy to treat ASD.

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Figure 1: Shank2 −/− mice exhibit ASD-like impaired social interaction and social communication, and repetitive jumping.
Figure 2: Impaired NMDAR-dependent synaptic plasticity in Shank2 −/− mice.
Figure 3: d -cycloserine normalizes NMDAR function and improves social interaction in Shank2 −/− mice.
Figure 4: CDPPB normalizes NMDAR function and substantially improves social interaction in Shank2 −/− mice.


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We would like to thank Macrogen for assistance in the production of mice. This work was supported by the National Creative Research Initiative Program, WCU program (R31-2008-000-10071-0), and Institute for Basic Science (to E.K.), the National Research Foundation of Korea (to M.G.L.; grant 2012-0000812), the National Creative Research Initiative Program & WCU program (to B.-K.K.; 2007-0054846), the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (to K.L. and Y.C.B.; 2011-0028240), and the National Leading Research Laboratory Program (to D.K.; 2011-0028772). H.-R.L. and J.-I.K. are supported by the BK21 fellowship, and H.W. is supported by the TJ Park Doctoral Fellowship and National Junior Research Fellowship.

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Authors and Affiliations



H.-R.L., J.-I.K. and B.-K.K. performed and analysed all the electrophysiological experiments and data; H.Y.G., E.S.J. and J.-S.L. generated and characterized Shank2−/− mice; S.-G.P. performed USV experiments; H.W., W.M. and J.L. performed immunoblot analysis; H.W., W.M., S.H. and C.C. contributed to mouse breeding and behavioural characterization; Y.S.C. performed electron microscopy experiments; H.W. and W.M. conducted all the other experiments; K.L., D.K., Y.C.B., B.-K.K., M.G.L. and E.K. supervised the project and wrote the manuscript. B.-K.K., M.G.L. and E.K. contributed equally to this work.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Bong-Kiun Kaang, Min Goo Lee or Eunjoon Kim.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-21 and Supplementary Methods with additional references. (PDF 17263 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

This table contains the information on the number, gender and age of animals used in the experiments associated with this paper. (XLS 45 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

This table contains the statistical results of the experiments associated with this paper. (XLS 118 kb)

Supplementary Movie 1

This movie shows a pup retrieval assay with a wild-type mouse. (MOV 12752 kb)

Supplementary Movie 2

This movie shows a pup retrieval assay with a Shank2−/− mouse. (MOV 25132 kb)

Supplementary Movie 3

This movie shows an example of repetitive jumping mixed with upright scrabbling in a Shank2−/− mouse. (MOV 1584 kb)

Supplementary Movie 4

This movie shows an example of repetitive grooming in a Shank2−/− mouse. (MOV 1103 kb)

Supplementary Movie 5

This movie shows an example of repetitive digging in a Shank2−/− mouse. (MOV 1975 kb)

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Won, H., Lee, HR., Gee, H. et al. Autistic-like social behaviour in Shank2-mutant mice improved by restoring NMDA receptor function. Nature 486, 261–265 (2012).

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