Sexually dimorphic neuroanatomical differences relate to ASD-relevant behavioral outcomes in a maternal autoantibody mouse model

Matthew R. Bruce, Karen L. Jones, Anthony C. Vernon, Jill L Silverman, Jacqueline N. Crawley, Jacob Ellegood, Jason P. Lerch, Judith A Van de Water

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immunoglobulin G (IgG) autoantibodies reactive to fetal brain proteins in mothers of children with ASD have been described by several groups. To understand their pathologic significance, we developed a mouse model of maternal autoantibody related ASD (MAR-ASD) utilizing the peptide epitopes from human autoantibody reactivity patterns. Male and female offspring prenatally exposed to the salient maternal autoantibodies displayed robust deficits in social interactions and increased repetitive self-grooming behaviors as juveniles and adults. In the present study, neuroanatomical differences in adult MAR-ASD and control offspring were assessed via high-resolution ex vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 6 months of age. Of interest, MAR-ASD mice displayed significantly larger total brain volume and of the 159 regions examined, 31 were found to differ significantly in absolute volume (mm3) at an FDR of <5%. Specifically, the absolute volumes of several white matter tracts, cortical regions, and basal nuclei structures were significantly increased in MAR-ASD animals. These phenomena were largely driven by female MAR-ASD offspring, as no significant differences were seen with either absolute or relative regional volume in male MAR-ASD mice. However, structural covariance analysis suggests network-level desynchronization in brain volume in both male and female MAR-ASD mice. Additionally, preliminary correlational analysis with behavioral data relates that volumetric increases in numerous brain regions of MAR-ASD mice were correlated with social interaction and repetitive self-grooming behaviors in a sex-specific manner. These results demonstrate significant sex-specific effects in brain size, regional relationships, and behavior for offspring prenatally exposed to MAR-ASD autoantibodies relative to controls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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