Excessive Protein Accumulation and Impaired Autophagy in the Hippocampus of Angelman Syndrome Modeled in Mice

Francesca Aria, Kiran Pandey, Cristina M. Alberini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Angelman syndrome (AS), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by abnormalities of the 15q11.2-q13.1 chromosome region, is characterized by impairment of cognitive and motor functions, sleep problems, and seizures. How the genetic defects of AS produce these neurological symptoms is unclear. Mice modeling AS (AS mice) accumulate activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (ARC/ARG3.1), a neuronal immediate early gene (IEG) critical for synaptic plasticity. This accumulation suggests an altered protein metabolism. Methods: Focusing on the dorsal hippocampus (dHC), a brain region critical for memory formation and cognitive functions, we assessed levels and tissue distribution of IEGs, de novo protein synthesis, and markers of protein synthesis, endosomes, autophagy, and synaptic functions in AS mice at baseline and following learning. We also tested autophagic flux and memory retention following autophagy-promoting treatment. Results: AS dHC exhibited accumulation of IEGs ARC, FOS, and EGR1; autophagy proteins MLP3B, SQSTM1, and LAMP1; and reduction of the endosomal protein RAB5A. AS dHC also had increased levels of de novo protein synthesis, impaired autophagic flux with accumulation of autophagosome, and altered synaptic protein levels. Contextual fear conditioning significantly increased levels of IEGs and autophagy proteins, de novo protein synthesis, and autophagic flux in the dHC of normal mice, but not in AS mice. Enhancing autophagy in the dHC alleviated AS-related memory and autophagic flux impairments. Conclusions: A major biological deficit of AS brain is a defective protein metabolism, particularly that dynamically regulated by learning, resulting in stalled autophagy and accumulation of neuronal proteins. Activating autophagy ameliorates AS cognitive impairments and dHC protein accumulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • Angelman syndrome
  • Autophagy
  • Hippocampus
  • Immediate early genes
  • Mouse
  • Protein synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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