The influence of choline treatment on behavioral and neurochemical autistic-like phenotype in Mthfr-deficient mice

Galila Agam, Zoe Taylor, Ella Vainer, Hava M. Golan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Imbalanced one carbon metabolism and aberrant autophagy is robustly reported in patients with autism. Polymorphism in the gene methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (Mthfr), encoding for a key enzyme in this pathway is associated with an increased risk for autistic-spectrum-disorders (ASDs). Autistic-like core and associated behaviors have been described, with contribution of both maternal and offspring Mthfr+/− genotype to the different domains of behavior. Preconception and prenatal supplementation with methyl donor rich diet to human subjects and mice reduced the risk for developing autism and autistic-like behavior, respectively. Here we tested the potential of choline supplementation to Mthfr-deficient mice at young-adulthood to reduce behavioral and neurochemical changes reminiscent of autism characteristics. We show that offspring of Mthfr+/− mothers, whether wildtype or heterozygote, exhibit autistic-like behavior, altered brain p62 protein levels and LC3-II/LC3-I levels ratio, both, autophagy markers. Choline supplementation to adult offspring of Mthfr+/− mothers for 14 days counteracted characteristics related to repetitive behavior and anxiety both in males and in females and improved social behavior solely in male mice. Choline treatment also normalized deviant cortical levels of the autophagy markers measured in male mice. The results demonstrate that choline supplementation even at adulthood, not tested previously, to offspring of Mthfr-deficient mothers, attenuates the autistic-like phenotype. If this proof of concept is replicated it might promote translation of these results to treatment recommendation for children with ASDs bearing similar genetic/metabolic make-up.

Original languageEnglish
Article number316
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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