Sexually dimorphic patterns in electroencephalography power spectrum and autism-related behaviors in a rat model of fragile X syndrome

Neurobiol Dis. 2020 Dec:146:105118. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2020.105118. Epub 2020 Oct 6.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a neurodevelopmental disorder with autistic features, is caused by the loss of the fragile X mental retardation protein. Sex-specific differences in the clinical profile have been observed in FXS patients, but few studies have directly compared males and females in rodent models of FXS. To address this, we performed electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and a battery of autism-related behavioral tasks on juvenile and young adult Fmr1 knockout (KO) rats. EEG analysis demonstrated that compared to wild-type, male Fmr1 KO rats showed an increase in gamma frequency band power in the frontal cortex during the sleep-like immobile state, and both male and female KO rats failed to show an increase in delta frequency power in the sleep-like state, as observed in wild-type rats. Previous studies of EEG profiles in FXS subjects also reported abnormally increased gamma frequency band power, highlighting this parameter as a potential translatable biomarker. Both male and female Fmr1 KO rats displayed reduced exploratory behaviors in the center zone of the open field test, and increased distance travelled in an analysis of 24-h home cage activity, an effect that was more prominent during the nocturnal phase. Reduced wins against wild-type opponents in the tube test of social dominance was seen in both sexes. In contrast, increased repetitive behaviors in the wood chew test was observed in male but not female KO rats, while increased freezing in a fear conditioning test was observed only in the female KO rats. Our findings highlight sex differences between male and female Fmr1 KO rats, and indicate that the rat model of FXS could be a useful tool for the development of new therapeutics for treating this debilitating neurodevelopmental disorder.

Keywords: Anxiety; Audiogenic seizures; Autism; Gamma oscillations; Gamma power; Gender; Locomotor activity; Sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Auditory Cortex / metabolism
  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / metabolism
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome / metabolism
  • Fragile X Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Rats

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