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Effects of the Cc2d1a/Freud-1 Knockdown in the Hippocampus of BTBR Mice on the Autistic-Like Behavior, Expression of Serotonin 5-HT1A and D2 Dopamine Receptors, and CREB and NF-kB Intracellular Signaling

Irina I. Belokopytova1, Elena M. Kondaurova1, Elizabeth A. Kulikova1, Tatiana V. Ilchibaeva1, Vladimir S. Naumenko1,a*, and Nina K. Popova1

1Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 630090 Novosibirsk, Russia

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received June 24, 2022; Revised July 29, 2022; Accepted August 24, 2022
The mechanisms of autism are of extreme interest due to the high prevalence of this disorder in the human population. In this regard, special attention is given to the transcription factor Freud-1 (encoded by the Cc2d1a gene), which regulates numerous intracellular signaling pathways and acts as a silencer for 5-HT1A serotonin and D2 dopamine receptors. Disruption of the Freud-1 functions leads to the development of various psychopathologies. In this study, we found an increase in the expression of the Cc2d1a/Freud-1 gene in the hippocampus of BTBR mice (model of autistic-like behavior) in comparison with C57Bl/6J mice and examined how restoration of the Cc2d1a/Freud-1 expression in the hippocampus of BTBR mice affects their behavior, expression of 5-HT1A serotonin and D2 dopamine receptors, and CREB and NF-κB intracellular signaling pathways in these animals. Five weeks after administration of the adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) carrying the pAAV_H1-2_shRNA-Freud-1_Syn_EGFP plasmid encoding a small hairpin RNA (shRNA) that suppressed expression of the Cc2d1a/Freud-1 gene, we observed an elevation in the anxiety levels, as well as the increase in the escape latency and path length to the platform in the Morris water maze test, which was probably associated with a strengthening of the active stress avoidance strategy. However, the Cc2d1a/Freud-1 knockdown did not affect the spatial memory and phosphorylation of the CREB transcription factor, although such effect was found in C57Bl/6J mice in our previous study. These results suggest the impairments in the CREB-dependent effector pathway in BTBR mice, which may play an important role in the development of the autistic-like phenotype. The knockdown of Cc2d1a/Freud-1 in the hippocampus of BTBR mice did not affect expression of the 5-HT1A serotonin and D2 dopamine receptors and key NF-κB signaling genes (Nfkb1 and Rela). Our data suggest that the transcription factor Freud-1 plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of anxiety and active stress avoidance in autism.
KEY WORDS: Cc2d1a/Freud-1 knockdown, 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, D2 dopamine receptor, CREB, NF-kB, BTBR mice, autistic-like behavior

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297922100145