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Mol Autism. 2019 Jan 31;10:3. doi: 10.1186/s13229-018-0250-4. eCollection 2019.

Intestinal dysmotility in a zebrafish (Danio rerio) shank3a;shank3b mutant model of autism.

Author information

1
1Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL USA.
2
2Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, Department of Psychiatry, Friedman Brain Institute and Mindich Child Health and Development Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY USA.
3
5Denali Therapeutics, South San Francisco, CA USA.
4
3Department of Physics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL USA.
5
Division of Gastroenterology, Atrium Health, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC USA.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

Background and aims:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is currently estimated to affect more than 1% of the world population. For people with ASD, gastrointestinal (GI) distress is a commonly reported but a poorly understood co-occurring symptom. Here, we investigate the physiological basis for GI distress in ASD by studying gut function in a zebrafish model of Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS), a condition caused by mutations in the SHANK3 gene.

Methods:

To generate a zebrafish model of PMS, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to introduce clinically related C-terminal frameshift mutations in shank3a and shank3b zebrafish paralogues (shank3abΔC). Because PMS is caused by SHANK3 haploinsufficiency, we assessed the digestive tract (DT) structure and function in zebrafish shank3abΔC +/- heterozygotes. Human SHANK3 mRNA was then used to rescue DT phenotypes in larval zebrafish.

Results:

Significantly slower rates of DT peristaltic contractions (p < 0.001) with correspondingly prolonged passage time (p < 0.004) occurred in shank3abΔC +/- mutants. Rescue injections of mRNA encoding the longest human SHANK3 isoform into shank3abΔC +/- mutants produced larvae with intestinal bulb emptying similar to wild type (WT), but still deficits in posterior intestinal motility. Serotonin-positive enteroendocrine cells (EECs) were significantly reduced in both shank3abΔC +/- and shank3abΔC -/- mutants (p < 0.05) while enteric neuron counts and overall structure of the DT epithelium, including goblet cell number, were unaffected in shank3abΔC +/- larvae.

Conclusions:

Our data and rescue experiments support mutations in SHANK3 as causal for GI transit and motility abnormalities. Reductions in serotonin-positive EECs and serotonin-filled ENS boutons suggest an endocrine/neural component to this dysmotility. This is the first study to date demonstrating DT dysmotility in a zebrafish single gene mutant model of ASD.

KEYWORDS:

Digestive transit; Enteroendocrine; Peristaltic rate; Phelan-McDermid syndrome

Conflict of interest statement

All procedures with animal are described in protocols 15–191 and 18–128 and were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of University of Miami.The authors declare that they have no competing interests.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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