Targeting mGlu5 metabotropic glutamate receptors in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in a mouse model of phenylketonuria

Francesca Nardecchia, Rosamaria Orlando, Luisa Iacovelli, Marco Colamartino, Elena Fiori, Vincenzo Leuzzi, Sonia Piccinin, Robert Nistico, Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, Luisa Di Menna, Giuseppe Battaglia, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Tiziana Pascucci

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We studied group-I metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors in Pahenu2 (ENU2) mice, which mimic the genetics and neurobiology of human phenylketonuria (PKU), a metabolic disorder characterized, if untreated, by autism, and intellectual disability (ID). Male ENU2 mice showed increased mGlu5 receptor protein levels in the hippocampus and corpus striatum (but not in the prefrontal cortex) whereas the transcript of the mGlu5 receptor was unchanged. No changes in mGlu1 receptor mRNA and protein levels were found in any of the three brain regions of ENU2 mice. We extended the analysis to Homer proteins, which act as scaffolds by linking mGlu1 and mGlu5 receptors to effector proteins. Expression of the long isoforms of Homer was significantly reduced in the hippocampus of ENU2 mice, whereas levels of the short Homer isoform (Homer 1a) were unchanged. mGlu5 receptors were less associated to immunoprecipitated Homer in the hippocampus of ENU2 mice. The lack of mGlu5 receptor-mediated long-term depression (LTD) in wild-type mice (of BTBR strain) precluded the analysis of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in ENU2 mice. We therefore performed a behavioral analysis to examine whether pharmacological blockade of mGlu5 receptors could correct behavioral abnormalities in ENU2 mice. Using the same apparatus we sequentially assessed locomotor activity, object exploration, and spatial object recognition (spatial novelty test) after displacing some of the objects from their original position in the arena. Systemic treatment with the mGlu5 receptor antagonist, MPEP (20 mg/kg, i.p.), had a striking effect in the spatial novelty test by substantially increasing the time spent in exploring the displaced objects in ENU2 mice (but not in wild-type mice). These suggest a role for mGlu5 receptors in the pathophysiology of ID in PKU and suggest that, also in adult untreated animals, cognitive dysfunction may be improved by targeting these receptors with an appropriate therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 16 2018


  • ENU2 mice
  • Hippocampus
  • Intellectual disability
  • MGluR5
  • Phenylketonuria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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