Muskelin (Mkln1) is implicated in neuronal function, regulating plasma membrane receptor trafficking. However, its influence on intrinsic brain activity and corresponding behavioral processes remains unclear. Here we show that murine Mkln1 knockout causes non-habituating locomotor activity, increased exploratory drive, and decreased locomotor response to amphetamine. Muskelin deficiency impairs social novelty detection while promoting the retention of spatial reference memory and fear extinction recall. This is strongly mirrored in either weaker or stronger resting-state functional connectivity between critical circuits mediating locomotor exploration and cognition. We show that Mkln1 deletion alters dendrite branching and spine structure, coinciding with enhanced AMPAR-mediated synaptic transmission but selective impairment in synaptic potentiation maintenance. We identify muskelin at excitatory synapses and highlight its role in regulating dendritic spine actin stability. Our findings point to aberrant spine actin modulation and changes in glutamatergic synaptic function as critical mechanisms that contribute to the neurobehavioral phenotype arising from Mkln1 ablation.
© 2022. The Author(s).