Behavioral Phenotyping of an Improved Mouse Model of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome with a Complete Deletion of the Shank3 Gene. Academic Article uri icon


  • Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS) is a rare genetic disorder in which one copy of the SHANK3 gene is missing or mutated, leading to a global developmental delay, intellectual disability (ID), and autism. Multiple intragenic promoters and alternatively spliced exons are responsible for the formation of numerous isoforms. Many genetically-modified mouse models of PMS have been generated but most disrupt only some of the isoforms. In contrast, the vast majority of known SHANK3 mutations found in patients involve deletions that disrupt all isoforms. Here, we report the production and thorough behavioral characterization of a new mouse model in which all Shank3 isoforms are disrupted. Domains and tasks examined in adults included measures of general health, neurological reflexes, motor abilities, sensory reactivity, social behavior, repetitive behaviors, cognition and behavioral inflexibility, and anxiety. Our mice are more severely affected than previously published models. While the deficits were typically more pronounced in homozygotes, an intermediate phenotype was observed for heterozygotes in many paradigms. As in other Shank3 mouse models, stereotypies, including increased grooming, were observed. Additionally, sensory alterations were detected in both neonatal and adult mice, and motor behavior was strongly altered, especially in the open field and rotarod locomotor tests. While social behaviors measured with the three-chambered social approach and male-female interaction tests were not strongly impacted, Shank3-deficient mice displayed a strong escape behavior and avoidance of inanimate objects in novel object recognition, repetitive novel object contact, marble burying, and nest building tasks, indicating increased novelty-induced anxiety. Similarly, increased freezing was observed during fear conditioning training and amygdala-dependent cued retrieval. Finally, deficits were observed in both initial training and reversal in the Barnes maze and in contextual fear testing, which are memory tasks involving hippocampal-prefrontal circuits. In contrast, working memory in the Y-maze spontaneous alternation test was not altered. This new mouse model of PMS, engineered to most closely represent human mutations, recapitulates core symptoms of PMS providing improvements for both construct and face validity, compared to previous models.

publication date

  • May 2018

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