Urrutia-Ruiz C, Rombach D, Cursano S, Gerlach-Arbeiter S, Schoen M, Bockmann J, Demestre M, Boeckers TM
Int J Mol Sci. 2022 May 29;23(11):6081. doi: 10.3390/ijms23116081.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by repetitive behaviors and impairments of sociability and communication. About 1% of ASD cases are caused by mutations of SHANK3, a major scaffolding protein of the postsynaptic density. We studied the role of SHANK3 in plastic changes of excitatory synapses within the central nervous system by employing mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in WT and Shank3 knockout mice. In WT mice, mTBI triggered ipsi- and contralateral loss of hippocampal dendritic spines and excitatory synapses with a partial recovery over time. In contrast, no significant synaptic alterations were detected in Shank3∆11-/- mice, which showed fewer dendritic spines and excitatory synapses at baseline. In line, mTBI induced the upregulation of synaptic plasticity-related proteins Arc and p-cofilin only in WT mice. Interestingly, microglia proliferation was observed in WT mice after mTBI but not in Shank3∆11-/- mice. Finally, we detected TBI-induced increased fear memory at the behavioral level, whereas in Shank3∆11-/- animals, the already-enhanced fear memory levels increased only slightly after mTBI. Our data show the lack of structural synaptic plasticity in Shank3 knockout mice that might explain at least in part the rigidity of behaviors, problems in adjusting to new situations and cognitive deficits seen in ASDs.