Characterization and Treatment of Autism-related Behaviors in PTEN Conditional Knockouts: A Potential Animal Model of Autism
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
Recent human autism studies have suggested a link between autism and mutations in a gene called PTEN. By making mice lacking the PTEN gene in certain regions of the brain, the Powell lab hopes to create a new animal model of autism and to test likely therapies in this model. Dr. Powell's group will complement the studies conducted by the Ross group at the University of Massachussets by studying the behavioral consequences of PTEN mutations. First, these investigators will test whether mice lacking proper PTEN function show normal social interaction behavior. Following functional characterization, the molecular and cellular changes due to loss of PTEN function will be investigated to assess which processes contribute to social behaviors. Finally, these animals will be treated with a compound which affects these downstream molecular changes in order to determine if behavioral abnormalities can be rescued with a pharmacological agent. Significance: These studies will provide further evidence linking abnormal regulation of protein synthesis to autism, and will likely implicate interesting new targets in the search for autism treatments.