Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental condition characterised by inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity; it is frequently co-morbid with anxiety and conduct disorders, sleep perturbation and abnormal consummatory behaviours. Recent studies have implicated the neurosteroid-modulating enzyme steroid sulfatase (STS) as a modulator of ADHD-related endophenotypes. The effects of steroid sulfatase deficiency on homecage activity, feeding/drinking behaviours, anxiety-related behaviours (assayed in light-dark box and open field paradigms), social dominance and serum steroid hormone levels were determined by comparing 40,XY and 39,X(Y*)O mice. Subsequently, mice administered the steroid sulfatase inhibitor COUMATE acutely were compared to vehicle-treated mice on behavioural tasks sensitive to enzyme deficiency to dissociate between its developmental and ongoing effects. 39,X(Y*)O mice exhibited heightened reactivity to a novel environment, hyperactivity in the active phase, and increased water (but not food) consumption relative to 40,XY mice during a 24h period; the former group also demonstrated evidence for heightened emotional reactivity. There was no difference in social dominance between the 40,XY and 39,X(Y*)O mice. COUMATE administration had no effect on homecage activity, water consumption or anxiety measures in the open field. 39,X(Y*)O mice exhibited significantly lower dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) serum levels than 40,XY mice, but equivalent corticosterone levels. Together with previous data, the present results suggest that steroid sulfatase may influence core and associated ADHD behavioural endophenotypes via both developmental and ongoing mechanisms, and that the 39,X(Y*)O model may represent a useful tool for elucidating the neurobiological basis of these endophenotypes.
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