Impaired function of GABAergic interneurons, and the subsequent alteration of excitation/inhibition balance, is thought to contribute to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Altered numbers of GABAergic interneurons and reduced expression of GABA receptors has been detected in the brain of ASD subjects and mouse models of ASD. We previously showed a reduced expression of GABAergic interneuron markers parvalbumin (PV) and somatostatin (SST) in the forebrain of adult mice lacking the Engrailed2 gene (En2-/- mice). Here, we extended this analysis to postnatal day (P) 30 by using in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative RT-PCR to study the expression of GABAergic interneuron markers in the hippocampus and somatosensory cortex of En2-/- and wild type (WT) mice. In addition, GABA receptor subunit mRNA expression was investigated by quantitative RT-PCR in the same brain regions of P30 and adult En2-/- and WT mice. As observed in adult animals, PV and SST expression was decreased in En2-/- forebrain of P30 mice. The expression of GABA receptor subunits (including the ASD-relevant Gabrb3) was also altered in young and adult En2-/- forebrain. Our results suggest that GABAergic neurotransmission deficits are already evident at P30, confirming that neurodevelopmental defects of GABAergic interneurons occur in the En2 mouse model of ASD.
Keywords: GABA; autism; development; hippocampus; interneuron; mouse; parvalbumin; receptor; somatosensory; somatostatin.