Increased gene dosage of Ube3a results in autism traits and decreased glutamate synaptic transmission in mice
People with autism spectrum disorder are characterized by impaired social interaction, reduced communication, and increased repetitive behaviors. The disorder has a substantial genetic component, and recent studies have revealed frequent genome copy number variations (CNVs) in some individuals. A common CNV that occurs in 1 to 3% of those with autism–maternal 15q11-13 duplication (dup15) and triplication (isodicentric extranumerary chromosome, idic15)–affects several genes that have been suggested to underlie autism behavioral traits. To test this, we tripled the dosage of one of these genes, the ubiquitin protein ligase Ube3a, which is expressed solely from the maternal allele in mature neurons, and reconstituted the three core autism traits in mice: defective social interaction, impaired communication, and increased repetitive stereotypic behavior. The penetrance of these autism traits depended on Ube3a gene copy number. In animals with increased Ube3a gene dosage, glutamatergic, but not GABAergic, synaptic transmission was suppressed as a result of reduced presynaptic release probability, synaptic glutamate concentration, and postsynaptic action potential coupling. These results suggest that Ube3a gene dosage may contribute to the autism traits of individuals with maternal 15q11-13 duplication and support the idea that increased E3A ubiquitin ligase gene dosage results in reduced excitatory synaptic transmission.