Recent studies have demonstrated that orchestrated gene activity and expression support synchronous activity of brain networks. However, there is a paucity of information on the consequences of single gene function on overall brain functional organization and connectivity and how this translates at the behavioral level. In this study, we combined mouse mutagenesis with functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine whether targeted inactivation of a single gene would modify whole-brain connectivity in live animals. The targeted gene encodes GPR88 (G protein-coupled receptor 88), an orphan G protein-coupled receptor enriched in the striatum and previously linked to behavioral traits relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders. Connectivity analysis of Gpr88-deficient mice revealed extensive remodeling of intracortical and cortico-subcortical networks. Most prominent modifications were observed at the level of retrosplenial cortex connectivity, central to the default mode network (DMN) whose alteration is considered a hallmark of many psychiatric conditions. Next, somatosensory and motor cortical networks were most affected. These modifications directly relate to sensorimotor gating deficiency reported in mutant animals and also likely underlie their hyperactivity phenotype. Finally, we identified alterations within hippocampal and dorsal striatum functional connectivity, most relevant to a specific learning deficit that we previously reported in Gpr88-/- animals. In addition, amygdala connectivity with cortex and striatum was weakened, perhaps underlying the risk-taking behavior of these animals. This is the first evidence demonstrating that GPR88 activity shapes the mouse brain functional and structural connectome. The concordance between connectivity alterations and behavior deficits observed in Gpr88-deficient mice suggests a role for GPR88 in brain communication.
Keywords: Gpr88; default mode network; mouse brain functional connectivity.