Hypersocial behavior and biological redundancy in mice with reduced expression of PSD95 or PSD93

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The postsynaptic density proteins 95 (PSD95) and 93 (PSD93) belong to a family of scaffolding proteins, the membrane-associated guanylate kinases (MAGUKs), which are highly enriched in synapses and responsible for organizing the numerous protein complexes required for synaptic development and plasticity. Genetic studies have associated MAGUKs with diseases like autism and schizophrenia, but knockout mice show severe, complex defects with difficult-to-interpret behavioral abnormalities due to major motor dysfunction which is atypical for psychiatric phenotypes. Therefore, rather than studying loss-of-function mutants, we comprehensively investigated the behavioral consequences of reduced PSD95 expression, using heterozygous PSD95 knockout mice (PSD95+/−). Specifically, we asked whether heterozygous PSD95 deficient mice would exhibit alterations in the processing of social stimuli and social behavior. Additionally, we investigated whether PSD95 and PSD93 would reveal any indication of functional or biological redundancy. Therefore, homozygous and heterozygous PSD93 deficient mice were examined in a similar behavioral battery as PSD95 mutants. We found robust hypersocial behavior in the dyadic interaction test in both PSD95+/− males and females. Additionally, male PSD95+/− mice exhibited higher levels of aggression and territoriality, while female PSD95+/− mice showed increased vocalization upon exposure to an anesthetized female mouse. Both male and female PSD95+/− mice revealed mild hypoactivity in the open field but no obvious motor deficit. Regarding PSD93 mutants, homozygous (but not heterozygous) knockout mice displayed prominent hypersocial behavior comparable to that observed in PSD95+/− mice, despite a more severe motor phenotype, which precluded several behavioral tests or their interpretation. Considering that PSD95 and PSD93 reduction provoke strikingly similar behavioral consequences, we explored a potential substitution effect and found increased PSD93 protein expression in hippocampal synaptic enrichment preparations of PSD95+/− mice. These data suggest that both PSD95 and PSD93 are involved in processing of social stimuli and control of social behavior. This important role may be partly assured by functional/behavioral and biological/biochemical redundancy.

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