Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a set of neurodevelopmental disorders marked by a lack of social interaction, restrictive interests, and repetitive behaviors. There is a paucity of pharmacological treatments to reduce core ASD symptoms. Various lines of evidence indicate that reduced brain muscarinic cholinergic receptor activity may contribute to an ASD phenotype.
Methods: The present experiments examined whether the partial M1 muscarinic receptor agonist, 5-(3-ethyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-5-yl)-1,4,5,6-tetrahydropyrimidine hydrochloride (CDD-0102A), alleviates behavioral flexibility deficits and/or stereotyped motor behaviors in the BTBR mouse model of autism. Behavioral flexibility was tested using a reversal learning test. Stereotyped motor behaviors were measured by eliciting digging behavior after removal of nesting material in a home cage and by measuring repetitive grooming.
Results: CDD-0102A (0.2 and 0.6 mg/kg but not 1.2 mg/kg) injected prior to reversal learning attenuated a deficit in BTBR mice but did not affect performance in B6 mice. Acute CDD-0102A treatment (1.2 and 3 mg/kg) reduced self-grooming in BTBR mice and reduced digging behavior in B6 and BTBR mice. The M1 muscarinic receptor antagonist VU0255035 (3 mg/kg) blocked the effect of CDD-0102A on grooming behavior. Chronic treatment with CDD-0102A (1.2 mg/kg) attenuated self-grooming and digging behavior in BTBR mice. Direct CDD-0102A infusions (1 µg) into the dorsal striatum reduced elevated digging behavior in BTBR mice. In contrast, CDD-0102A injections in the frontal cortex were not effective.
Conclusions: The results suggest that treatment with a partial M1 muscarinic receptor agonist may reduce repetitive behaviors and restricted interests in autism in part by stimulating striatal M1 muscarinic receptors.
Keywords: Autism; BTBR; behaviors; learning; repetitive muscarinic receptor.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CINP.