Lack of parvalbumin in mice leads to behavioral deficits relevant to all human autism core symptoms and related neural morphofunctional abnormalities

Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Mar 10;5(3):e525. doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.19.


Gene mutations and gene copy number variants are associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Affected gene products are often part of signaling networks implicated in synapse formation and/or function leading to alterations in the excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance. Although the network of parvalbumin (PV)-expressing interneurons has gained particular attention in ASD, little is known on PV's putative role with respect to ASD. Genetic mouse models represent powerful translational tools for studying the role of genetic and neurobiological factors underlying ASD. Here, we report that PV knockout mice (PV(-/-)) display behavioral phenotypes with relevance to all three core symptoms present in human ASD patients: abnormal reciprocal social interactions, impairments in communication and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. PV-depleted mice also showed several signs of ASD-associated comorbidities, such as reduced pain sensitivity and startle responses yet increased seizure susceptibility, whereas no evidence for behavioral phenotypes with relevance to anxiety, depression and schizophrenia was obtained. Reduced social interactions and communication were also observed in heterozygous (PV(+/-)) mice characterized by lower PV expression levels, indicating that merely a decrease in PV levels might be sufficient to elicit core ASD-like deficits. Structural magnetic resonance imaging measurements in PV(-/-) and PV(+/-) mice further revealed ASD-associated developmental neuroanatomical changes, including transient cortical hypertrophy and cerebellar hypoplasia. Electrophysiological experiments finally demonstrated that the E/I balance in these mice is altered by modification of both inhibitory and excitatory synaptic transmission. On the basis of the reported changes in PV expression patterns in several, mostly genetic rodent models of ASD, we propose that in these models downregulation of PV might represent one of the points of convergence, thus providing a common link between apparently unrelated ASD-associated synapse structure/function phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Size
  • Parvalbumins*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology


  • Parvalbumins