Synaptic potentiation underlies various forms of behavior and depends on modulation by multiple activity-dependent transcription factors to coordinate the expression of genes necessary for sustaining synaptic transmission. Our current study identified the tumor suppressor p53 as a novel transcription factor involved in this process. We first revealed that p53 could be elevated upon chemically induced long-term potentiation (cLTP) in cultured primary neurons. By knocking down p53 in neurons, we further showed that p53 is required for cLTP-induced elevation of surface GluA1 and GluA2 subunits of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR). Because LTP is one of the principal plasticity mechanisms underlying behaviors, we employed forebrain-specific knockdown of p53 to evaluate the role of p53 in behavior. Our results showed that, while knocking down p53 in mice does not alter locomotion or anxiety-like behavior, it significantly promotes repetitive behavior and reduces sociability in mice of both sexes. In addition, knocking down p53 also impairs hippocampal LTP and hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Most importantly, these learning-associated defects are more pronounced in male mice than in female mice, suggesting a sex-specific role of p53 in these behaviors. Using RNA sequencing (RNAseq) to identify p53-associated genes in the hippocampus, we showed that knocking down p53 up- or down-regulates multiple genes with known functions in synaptic plasticity and neurodevelopment. Altogether, our study suggests p53 as an activity-dependent transcription factor that mediates the surface expression of AMPAR, permits hippocampal synaptic plasticity, represses autism-like behavior, and promotes hippocampus-dependent learning and memory.
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The RNA sequencing results can be found at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.23560812.v1.
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This work is supported by National Institute of Health R01NS105615, R01MH124827 and R21MH122840 to N-P.T.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Lee, K.Y., Wang, H., Yook, Y. et al. Tumor suppressor p53 modulates activity-dependent synapse strengthening, autism-like behavior and hippocampus-dependent learning. Mol Psychiatry (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-023-02268-9