High maternal choline consumption during pregnancy and nursing alleviates deficits in social interaction and improves anxiety-like behaviors in the BTBR T+Itpr3tf/J mouse model of autism.Behav Brain Res. 2015 Feb 01; 278:210-20.BB
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. Choline is a fundamental nutrient for brain development and high choline intake during prenatal and/or early postnatal periods is neuroprotective. We examined the effects of perinatal choline supplementation on social behavior, anxiety, and repetitive behaviors in the BTBR T+Itpr3tf/J (BTBR) mouse model of autism. The BTBR or the more "sociable" C57BL/6J (B6) strain females were fed a control or choline-supplemented diet from mating, throughout pregnancy and lactation. After weaning to a control diet, all offspring were evaluated at one or two ages [postnatal days 33-36 and 89-91] using open field (OF), elevated plus maze (EPM), marble burying (MB), and three-chamber social interaction tests. As expected, control-diet BTBR mice displayed higher OF locomotor activity, impaired social preference, and increased digging behavior during the MB test compared to control-diet B6 mice. Choline supplementation significantly decreased digging behavior, elevated the percentage of open arm entries and time spent in open arms in the EPM by BTBR mice, but had no effect on locomotion. Choline supplementation did not alter social interaction in B6 mice but remarkably improved impairments in social interaction in BTBR mice at both ages, indicating that the benefits of supplementation persist long after dietary choline returns to control levels. In conclusion, our results suggest that high choline intake during early development can prevent or dramatically reduce deficits in social behavior and anxiety in an autistic mouse model, revealing a novel strategy for the treatment/prevention of autism spectrum disorders.