Maternal and offspring methylenetetrahydrofolate-reductase genotypes interact in a mouse model to induce autism spectrum disorder-like behavior

Noa Sadigurschi, Hava M. Golan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Individuals with autism constitute a variable population whose members are spread along the autism spectrum. Subpopulations within that spectrum exhibit other conditions, such as anxiety, intellectual disabilities, hyperactivity and epilepsy, with different severities and co-occurrences. Among the genes associated with the increased risk for autism is the methylenetetrahydrofolate-reductase (MTHFR) 677C>T polymorphism, which impairs one-carbon (C1) metabolic pathway efficiency. The frequency of the MTHFR677TT homozygote is markedly higher among autism patients and their mothers than in the general population. Here, we report on the Mthfr heterozygous knockout (KO) mouse as a rodent model of autism that shows the contributions of maternal and offspring genotypes to the development of autistic-like behaviors. Maternal Mthfr-deficiency was associated with developmental delays in morphogenic features and sensory-motor reflexes in offspring. In the adult male mouse, behaviors representing core autism symptoms, such as repetitive behavior and restricted interest, were affected by maternal genotype while social behaviors were affected by both maternal and offspring genotypes. In females and males, behaviors associated with autism such as memory impairment, social aggression and anxiety were affected by both the maternal and offspring Mthfr genotypes, with sex-dependent differences. Mthfr-deficient male mice with observable impacts on behavior presented a particular laminar disturbance in parvalbumin interneuron density and innervation in superficial and deep layers of the cingulate cortex. This mouse model of autism will help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that predispose a significant subgroup of autistic patients to abnormal development and to distinguish between the in-utero and autonomous factors involved in autism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12547
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • autism
  • developmental delay
  • in-utero
  • one-carbon metabolism
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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