Prenatal β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade regulates adult social and stereotypic behaviors

H. Belinson, J. Nakatani, B. A. Babineau, R. Y. Birnbaum, J. Ellegood, M. Bershteyn, R. J. McEvilly, J. M. Long, K. Willert, O. D. Klein, N. Ahituv, J. P. Lerch, M. G. Rosenfeld, A. Wynshaw-Boris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Social interaction is a fundamental behavior in all animal species, but the developmental timing of the social neural circuit formation and the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing its formation are poorly understood. We generated a mouse model with mutations in two Disheveled genes, Dvl1 and Dvl3, that displays adult social and repetitive behavioral abnormalities associated with transient embryonic brain enlargement during deep layer cortical neuron formation. These phenotypes were mediated by the embryonic expansion of basal neural progenitor cells (NPCs) via deregulation of a β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade. Transient pharmacological activation of the canonical Wnt pathway during this period of early corticogenesis rescued the β-catenin/Brn2/Tbr2 transcriptional cascade and the embryonic brain phenotypes. Remarkably, this embryonic treatment prevented adult behavioral deficits and partially rescued abnormal brain structure in Dvl mutant mice. Our findings define a mechanism that links fetal brain development and adult behavior, demonstrating a fetal origin for social and repetitive behavior deficits seen in disorders such as autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1417-1433
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology


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