Targeting inhibitory cerebellar circuitry to alleviate behavioral deficits in a mouse model for studying idiopathic autism

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 Jun;45(7):1159-1170. doi: 10.1038/s41386-020-0656-5. Epub 2020 Mar 16.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) encompasses wide-ranging neuropsychiatric symptoms with unclear etiology. Although the cerebellum is a key region implicated in ASD, it remains elusive how the cerebellar circuitry is altered and whether the cerebellum can serve as a therapeutic target to rectify the phenotype of idiopathic ASD with polygenic abnormalities. Using a syndromic ASD model, e.g., Black and Tan BRachyury T+Itpr3tf/J (BTBR) mice, we revealed that increased excitability of presynaptic interneurons (INs) and decreased intrinsic excitability of postsynaptic Purkinje neurons (PNs) resulted in low PN firing rates in the cerebellum. Knowing that downregulation of Kv1.2 potassium channel in the IN nerve terminals likely augmented their excitability and GABA release, we applied a positive Kv1.2 modulator to mitigate the presynaptic over-inhibition and social impairment of BTBR mice. Selective restoration of the PN activity by a new chemogenetic approach alleviated core ASD-like behaviors of the BTBR strain. These findings highlight complex mechanisms converging onto the cerebellar dysfunction in the phenotypic model and provide effective strategies for potential therapies of ASD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Cerebellum* / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL