Etiology of aberrant social behavior consistently points to a strong polygenetic component involved in fundamental developmental pathways, with the potential of being enhanced by defects in bioenergetics. To this end, the occurrence of social deficits and mitochondrial outcomes were evaluated in conditional Pten (Phosphatase and tensin homolog) haplo-insufficient mice, in which only one allele was selectively knocked-out in neural tissues. Pten mutations have been linked to Alzheimer's disease and syndromic autism spectrum disorders, among others. By 4-6 weeks of age, Pten insufficiency resulted in the increase of several mitochondrial Complex activities (II-III, IV and V) not accompanied by increases in mitochondrial mass, consistent with an activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, of which Pten is a negative modulator. At 8-13 weeks of age, Pten haplo-insufficient mice did not show significant behavioral abnormalities or changes in mitochondrial outcomes, but by 20-29 weeks, they displayed aberrant social behavior (social avoidance, failure to recognize familiar mouse, and repetitive self-grooming), macrocephaly, increased oxidative stress, decreased cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) activity (50%) and increased mtDNA deletions in cerebellum and hippocampus. Mitochondrial dysfunction was the result of a downregulation of p53-signaling pathway evaluated by lower protein expression of p21 (65% of controls) and the CCO chaperone SCO2 (47% of controls), two p53-downstream targets. This mechanism was confirmed in Pten-deficient striatal neurons and, HCT 116 cells with different p53 gene dosage. These results suggest a unique pathogenic mechanism of the Pten-p53 axis in mice with aberrant social behavior: loss of Pten (via p53) impairs mitochondrial function elicited by an early defective assembly of CCO and later enhanced by the accumulation of mtDNA deletions. Consistent with our results, (i) SCO2 deficiency and/or CCO activity defects have been reported in patients with learning disabilities including autism and (ii) mutated proteins in ASD have been found associated with p53-signaling pathways.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)