There is an urgent need for animal models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to understand the underlying pathology and facilitate development and testing of new treatments. The synaptic growth-associated protein-43 (GAP43) has recently been identified as an autism candidate gene of interest. Our previous studies show many brain abnormalities in mice lacking one allele for GAP43 [GAP43 (+/-)] that are consistent with the disordered connectivity theory of ASD. Thus, we hypothesized that GAP43 (+/-) mice would show at least some autistic-like behaviors. We found that GAP43 (+/-) mice, relative to wild-type (+/+) littermates, displayed resistance to change, consistent with one of the diagnostic criteria for ASD. GAP43 (+/-) mice also displayed stress-induced behavioral withdrawal and anxiety, as seen in many autistic individuals. In addition, both GAP43 (+/-) mice and (+/+) littermates showed low social approach and lack of preference for social novelty, consistent with another diagnostic criterion for ASD. This low sociability is likely because of the mixed C57BL/6J 129S3/SvImJ background. We conclude that GAP43 deficiency leads to the development of a subset of autistic-like behaviors. As these behaviors occur in a mouse that displays disordered connectivity, we propose that future anatomical and functional studies in this mouse may help uncover underlying mechanisms for these specific behaviors. Strain-specific low sociability may be advantageous in these studies, creating a more autistic-like environment for study of the GAP43-mediated deficits of resistance to change and vulnerability to stress.
© 2010 The Authors. Genes, Brain and Behavior © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society.