The UBE3A gene is part of the chromosome 15q11-q13 region that is frequently deleted or duplicated, leading to several neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD). Angelman syndrome (AS) is caused by the absence of functional maternally derived UBE3A protein, while the paternal UBE3A gene is present but silenced specifically in neurons. Patients with AS present with severe neurodevelopmental delay, with pronounced motor deficits, absence of speech, intellectual disability, epilepsy, and sleep problems. The pathophysiology of AS is still unclear and a treatment is lacking. Animal models of AS recapitulate the genotypic and phenotypic features observed in AS patients, and have been invaluable for understanding the disease process as well as identifying apropriate drug targets. Using these AS mouse models we have learned that loss of UBE3A probably affects many areas of the brain, leading to increased neuronal excitability and a loss of synaptic spines, along with changes in a number of distinct behaviours. Inducible AS mouse models have helped to identify the critical treatment windows for the behavioral and physiological phenotypes. Additionally, AS mouse models indicate an important role for the predominantly nuclear UBE3A isoform in generating the characteristic AS pathology. Last, but not least, the AS mice have been crucial in guiding Ube3a gene reactivation treatments, which present a very promising therapy to treat AS.
Keywords: UBE3A; angelman syndrome; autism; critical period; mouse model; neurodevelopment.
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