PDE11A regulates social behaviors and is a key mechanism by which social experience sculpts the brain

Neuroscience. 2016 Oct 29;335:151-69. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.08.019. Epub 2016 Aug 17.


Despite the fact that appropriate social behaviors are vital to thriving in one's environment, little is understood of the molecular mechanisms controlling social behaviors or how social experience sculpts these signaling pathways. Here, we determine if Phosphodiesterase 11A (PDE11A), an enzyme that is enriched in the ventral hippocampal formation (VHIPP) and that breaks down cAMP and cGMP, regulates social behaviors. PDE11 wild-type (WT), heterozygous (HT), and knockout (KO) mice were tested in various social approach assays and gene expression differences were measured by RNA sequencing. The effect of social isolation on PDE11A4 compartmentalization and subsequent social interactions and social memory was also assessed. Deletion of PDE11A triggered age- and sex-dependent deficits in social approach in specific social contexts but not others. Mice appear to detect altered social behaviors of PDE11A KO mice, because C57BL/6J mice prefer to spend time with a sex-matched PDE11A WT vs. its KO littermate; whereas, a PDE11A KO prefers to spend time with a novel PDE11A KO vs. its WT littermate. Not only is PDE11A required for intact social interactions, we found that 1month of social isolation vs. group housing decreased PDE11A4 protein expression specifically within the membrane fraction of VHIPP. This isolation-induced decrease in PDE11A4 expression appears functional because social isolation impairs subsequent social approach behavior and social memory in a PDE11A genotype-dependent manner. Pathway analyses following RNA sequencing suggests PDE11A is a key regulator of the oxytocin pathway and membrane signaling, consistent with its pivotal role in regulating social behavior.

Keywords: hippocampus; phosphodiesterase; social approach; social buffering; social memory; social odor recognition.

MeSH terms

  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Genotype
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Social Behavior*


  • Oxytocin
  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases
  • Pde11a protein, mouse