Targeted Tshz3 deletion in corticostriatal circuit components segregates core autistic behaviors


  • Caubit Xavier
  • Gubellini Paolo
  • Roubertoux Pierre L.
  • Carlier Michèle
  • Molitor Jordan
  • Chabbert Dorian
  • Metwaly Mehdi
  • Salin Pascal
  • Fatmi Ahmed
  • Belaidouni Yasmine
  • Brosse Lucie
  • Goff Lydia Kerkerian-Le
  • Fasano Laurent


  • Autism spectrum disorder ASD
  • Cortical projection neurons
  • Sociability
  • Stereotyped behaviors
  • Striatal cholinergic interneurons

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We previously linked TSHZ3 haploinsufficiency to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and showed that embryonic or postnatal Tshz3 deletion in mice results in behavioral traits relevant to the two core domains of ASD, namely social interaction deficits and repetitive behaviors. Here, we provide evidence that cortical projection neurons (CPNs) and striatal cholinergic interneurons (SCINs) are two main and complementary players in the TSHZ3-linked ASD syndrome. We show that in the cerebral cortex, TSHZ3 is expressed in CPNs and in a proportion of GABA interneurons, while not in cholinergic interneurons or glial cells. TSHZ3-expressing cells, which are predominantly SCINs in the striatum, represent a low proportion of neurons in the ascending cholinergic projection system. We then characterized two new conditional knockout (cKO) models generated by crossing Tshz3 flox/flox with Emx1-Cre ( Emx1-cKO ) or Chat-Cre ( Chat-cKO ) mice to decipher the respective role of CPNs and SCINs. Emx1-cKO mice show altered excitatory synaptic transmission onto CPNs and plasticity at corticostriatal synapses, with neither cortical neuron loss nor impaired layer distribution. These animals present social interaction deficits but no repetitive patterns of behavior. Chat-cKO mice exhibit no loss of SCINs but changes in the electrophysiological properties of these interneurons, associated with repetitive patterns of behavior without social interaction deficits. Therefore, dysfunction in either CPNs or SCINs segregates with a distinct ASD behavioral trait. These findings provide novel insights onto the implication of the corticostriatal circuitry in ASD by revealing an unexpected neuronal dichotomy in the biological background of the two core behavioral domains of this disorder.

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