CLK2 inhibition ameliorates autistic features associated with SHANK3 deficiency

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Science  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6278, pp. 1199-1203
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5487

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Signal problems in autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorders have many causes. Bidinosti et al. studied Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMDS), one of the symptoms of which can be autism (see the Perspective by Burbach). The authors used neurons derived from these patients, as well as from mice, with the culprit gene disrupted and found that a chain of intracellular signals becomes imbalanced. Signaling and behavioral symptoms could be improved by a small-molecule therapeutic that inhibits a key kinase.

Science, this issue p. 1199; see also p. 1153


SH3 and multiple ankyrin repeat domains 3 (SHANK3) haploinsufficiency is causative for the neurological features of Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMDS), including a high risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We used unbiased, quantitative proteomics to identify changes in the phosphoproteome of Shank3-deficient neurons. Down-regulation of protein kinase B (PKB/Akt)–mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling resulted from enhanced phosphorylation and activation of serine/threonine protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) regulatory subunit, B56β, due to increased steady-state levels of its kinase, Cdc2-like kinase 2 (CLK2). Pharmacological and genetic activation of Akt or inhibition of CLK2 relieved synaptic deficits in Shank3-deficient and PMDS patient–derived neurons. CLK2 inhibition also restored normal sociability in a Shank3-deficient mouse model. Our study thereby provides a novel mechanistic and potentially therapeutic understanding of deregulated signaling downstream of Shank3 deficiency.

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