A social encounter drives gene expression changes linked to neuronal function, brain development, and related disorders in mice expressing the serotonin transporter Ala56 variant

Neurosci Lett. 2020 Jun 21;730:135027. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2020.135027. Epub 2020 May 11.


Multiple lines of evidence implicate the serotonin (5-HT) system in social function, including biomarker findings in autism spectrum disorder. In mice, knock-in of a rare Gly56Ala substitution in the serotonin transporter (SERT) causes elevated whole blood 5-HT levels, increased 5-HT clearance in the brain, and altered social and repetitive behavior. To further examine the molecular impact of this variant on social response, SERT Ala56 mutant mice and wildtype littermate controls were exposed to a social or non-social stimulus. We examined the differential activation of the prefrontal cortex, lateral amygdala, and medial amygdala, to social stimuli through RNA sequencing. Differentially expressed genes were enriched in axonal guidance signaling pathways, networks related to nervous system development and function, neurological and psychiatric disorders, and behavior. These identified pathways and networks may shed light on the molecular cascades underlying the impact of altered SERT function on social behavior.

Keywords: Amygdala; Autism spectrum disorder; Prefrontal cortex; Serotonin; Social; Transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / metabolism*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Social Behavior


  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Serotonin