Resistance to change and vulnerability to stress: Autistic-like features of GAP43-deficient mice

K. J. Zaccaria, D. C. Lagace, A. J. Eisch, J. S. McCasland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


There is an urgent need for animal models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to understand the underlying pathology and facilitate development and testing of new treatments. The synaptic growth-associated protein-43 (GAP43) has recently been identified as an autism candidate gene of interest. Our previous studies show many brain abnormalities in mice lacking one allele for GAP43 [GAP43 (+/-)] that are consistent with the disordered connectivity theory of ASD. Thus, we hypothesized that GAP43 (+/-) mice would show at least some autistic-like behaviors. We found that GAP43 (+/-) mice, relative to wild-type (+/+) littermates, displayed resistance to change, consistent with one of the diagnostic criteria for ASD. GAP43 (+/-) mice also displayed stress-induced behavioral withdrawal and anxiety, as seen in many autistic individuals. In addition, both GAP43 (+/-) mice and (+/+) littermates showed low social approach and lack of preference for social novelty, consistent with another diagnostic criterion for ASD. This low sociability is likely because of the mixed C57BL/6J 129S3/SvImJ background. We conclude that GAP43 deficiency leads to the development of a subset of autistic-like behaviors. As these behaviors occur in a mouse that displays disordered connectivity, we propose that future anatomical and functional studies in this mouse may help uncover underlying mechanisms for these specific behaviors. Strain-specific low sociability may be advantageous in these studies, creating a more autistic-like environment for study of the GAP43-mediated deficits of resistance to change and vulnerability to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)985-996
Number of pages12
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Animal
  • Anxiety behavior
  • Autistic disorder
  • Behavior
  • Disease models
  • GAP43
  • Maze learning
  • Mice
  • Mutant strains
  • Reversal learning
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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