Developmental Vitamin D Deficiency Produces Behavioral Phenotypes of Relevance to Autism in an Animal Model

Nutrients. 2019 May 27;11(5):1187. doi: 10.3390/nu11051187.


Emerging evidence suggests that gestational or developmental vitamin D (DVD) deficiency is associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, lack of verbal and non-verbal communications, stereotyped repetitive behaviors and hyper-activities. There are several other clinical features that are commonly comorbid with ASD, including olfactory impairments, anxiety and delays in motor development. Here we investigate these features in an animal model related to ASD-the DVD-deficient rat. Compared to controls, both DVD-deficient male and female pups show altered ultrasonic vocalizations and stereotyped repetitive behavior. Further, the DVD-deficient animals had delayed motor development and impaired motor control. Adolescent DVD-deficient animals had impaired reciprocal social interaction, while as adults, these animals were hyperactive. The DVD-deficient model is associated with a range of behavioral features of interest to ASD.

Keywords: Vitamin D; animal model; autism spectrum disorder; behavior; brain development; ultrasonic vocalizations.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Phenotype
  • Purkinje Cells / pathology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex, Righting
  • Stereotyped Behavior
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Vocalization, Animal