The cellular mechanisms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are poorly understood. Cumulative evidence suggests that abnormal synapse function underlies many features of this disease. Astrocytes regulate several key neuronal processes, including the formation of synapses and the modulation of synaptic plasticity. Astrocyte abnormalities have also been identified in the postmortem brain tissue of ASD individuals. However, it remains unclear whether astrocyte pathology plays a mechanistic role in ASD, as opposed to a compensatory response. To address this, we combined stem cell culturing with transplantation techniques to determine disease-specific properties inherent to ASD astrocytes. We demonstrate that ASD astrocytes induce repetitive behavior as well as impair memory and long-term potentiation when transplanted into the healthy mouse brain. These in vivo phenotypes were accompanied by reduced neuronal network activity and spine density caused by ASD astrocytes in hippocampal neurons in vitro. Transplanted ASD astrocytes also exhibit exaggerated Ca2+ fluctuations in chimeric brains. Genetic modulation of evoked Ca2+ responses in ASD astrocytes modulates behavior and neuronal activity deficits. Thus, this study determines that astrocytes derived from ASD iPSCs are sufficient to induce repetitive behavior as well as cognitive deficit, suggesting a previously unrecognized primary role for astrocytes in ASD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Psychiatry and Mental health