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J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Mar 9;236:231-239. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2019.03.010. [Epub ahead of print]

Kami-shoyo-san ameliorates sociability deficits in ovariectomized mice, a putative female model of autism spectrum disorder, via facilitating dopamine D1 and GABAA receptor functions.

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Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama, 2630 Sugitani, Toyama, 930-0194, Japan.
Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama, 2630 Sugitani, Toyama, 930-0194, Japan. Electronic address:
Laboratory of Functional Biomolecules and Chemical Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Setsunan University, 45-1, Nagaotoge-cho, Hirakata City, Osaka 573-0101, Japan.
Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA.



Kami-shoyo-san (KSS) is a Kampo formula used clinically for menopause-related symptoms in Japan. However, the effect of KSS on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disorder with a higher prevalence in males than in females, has not been reported yet.


It is accepted generally that dysfunction in the GABAergic system is associated with pathogenesis of ASD. In our previous study, a decrease in brain allopregnanolone (ALLO), a positive allosteric GABAA receptor modulator, induced ASD-like symptoms such as impaired sociability-related performance and increased repetitive self-grooming behavior in male mice, and that KSS ameliorated these behavioral abnormalities via GABAA receptor- and dopamine D1 receptor-mediated mechanisms. In this study, to better understand a gender difference in the prevalence of ASD, we examined whether dissection of ovary (OVX), a major organ secreting progesterone in females, causes ASD-like behaviors in a manner dependent on brain ALLO levels, and if so, how KSS affects the behaviors.


Six-week-old ICR female mice received ovariectomy, and KSS (74 mg/kg and 222 mg/kg, p.o.) were treated before 1 h starting each behavioral test. The sociability, social anxiety-like behavior, and self-grooming behavior were analyzed by the resident-intruder test, mirror chamber test, and open field test, respectively. After finishing the behavioral experiment, the ALLO content in the brain was measured by ELISA. Furthermore, we examined the effects of OVX on the neuro-signaling pathways in the prefrontal cortex and striatum by Western blotting.


The results revealed that OVX induced sociability deficits and social anxiety-related behaviors, but not repetitive self-grooming behavior, and that these behavioral changes were accompanied not only by a decrease of brain ALLO levels, but also by impairment of CREB- and CaMKIIα-mediated neuro-signaling in the prefrontal cortex. Moreover, the administration of KSS had no effect on the brain ALLO level, but significantly ameliorated the OVX-induced behavioral and neurochemical changes via facilitation of GABAA receptor and dopamine D1 receptor-mediated neurotransmission.


These findings suggest that a decrease in gonadal hormone-derived ALLO plays a major role in ASD-like behaviors in female mice and that KSS is beneficial for the treatment of ASD in females.


Allopregnanolone; Autism spectrum disorder; Kami-shoyo-san; Ovariectomized female mice; Sociability deficits; Social anxiety


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