Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition in which the mechanisms underlying its core symptomatology are largely unknown. Studying animal models of monogenic syndromes associated with ASD, such as neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), can offer insights into its aetiology. Here, we show that loss of function of the Drosophila NF1 ortholog results in tactile hypersensitivity following brief mechanical stimulation in the larva (mixed sexes), paralleling the sensory abnormalities observed in individuals with ASD. Mutant larvae also exhibit synaptic transmission deficits at the glutamatergic neuromuscular junction (NMJ), with increased spontaneous but reduced evoked release. While the latter is homeostatically compensated for by a postsynaptic increase in input resistance, the former is consistent with neuronal hyperexcitability. Indeed, diminished expression of NF1 specifically within central cholinergic neurons induces both excessive neuronal firing and tactile hypersensitivity, suggesting the two may be linked. Furthermore, both impaired synaptic transmission and behavioural deficits are fully rescued via knockdown of Ras proteins. These findings validate NF1-/- Drosophila as a tractable model of ASD with the potential to elucidate important pathophysiological mechanisms.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 29 Sep 2022|
Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms
- Manchester Institute of Biotechnology