15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome is characterized by a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, including developmental delay, intellectual disability, epilepsy, language impairment, abnormal behaviors, neuropsychiatric disorders, and hypotonia. This syndrome is caused by a deletion on chromosome 15q, which typically encompasses six genes. Here, through studies on OTU deubiquitinase 7A (Otud7a) knockout mice, we identify OTUD7A as a critical gene responsible for many of the cardinal phenotypes associated with 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome. Otud7a-null mice show reduced body weight, developmental delay, abnormal electroencephalography patterns and seizures, reduced ultrasonic vocalizations, decreased grip strength, impaired motor learning/motor coordination, and reduced acoustic startle. We show that OTUD7A localizes to dendritic spines and that Otud7a-null mice have decreased dendritic spine density compared to their wild-type littermates. Furthermore, frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) is reduced in the frontal cortex of Otud7a-null mice, suggesting a role of Otud7a in regulation of dendritic spine density and glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Taken together, our results suggest decreased OTUD7A dosage as a major contributor to the neurodevelopmental phenotypes associated with 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome, through the misregulation of dendritic spine density and activity.
Keywords: 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome; OTUD7A; dendritic spines; mouse behavior.
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