Overactivation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of syndromic forms of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), such as tuberous sclerosis complex, neurofibromatosis 1, and fragile X syndrome. Administration of mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1) inhibitors (e.g. rapamycin) in syndromic mouse models of ASDs improved behavior, cognition, and neuropathology. However, since only a minority of ASDs are due to the effects of single genes (∼10%), there is a need to explore inhibition of mTOR activity in mouse models that may be more relevant to the majority of nonsyndromic presentations, such as the genetically inbred BTBR T(+)Itpr3(tf)/J (BTBR) mouse model of ASDs. BTBR mice have social impairment and exhibit increased stereotypic behavior. In prior work, d-cycloserine, a partial glycineB site agonist that targets the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, was shown to improve sociability in both Balb/c and BTBR mouse models of ASDs. Importantly, NMDA receptor activation regulates mTOR signaling activity. The current study investigated the ability of rapamycin (10mg/kg, i.p.×four days), an mTORC1 inhibitor, to improve sociability and stereotypic behavior in BTBR mice. Using a standard paradigm to assess mouse social behavior, rapamycin improved several measures of sociability in the BTBR mouse, suggesting that mTOR overactivation represents a therapeutic target that mediates or contributes to impaired sociability in the BTBR mouse model of ASDs. Interestingly, there was no effect of rapamycin on stereotypic behaviors in this mouse model.
Keywords: BTBR mice; NMDA receptor; Rapamycin; Sociability; mTOR signaling.
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