Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been hypothesized to be a result of altered connectivity in the brain. Recent imaging studies suggest accelerated maturation of the white matter in young children with ASD, with underlying mechanisms unknown. Myelin is an integral part of the white matter and critical for connectivity; however, its role in ASD remains largely unclear. Here, we investigated myelin development in a model of idiopathic ASD, the BTBR mice. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed that fiber tracts in the frontal brain of the BTBR mice had increased volume at postnatal day 6, but the difference reduced over time, reminiscent of the findings in young patients. We further identified that myelination in the frontal brain of both male and female neonatal BTBR mice was increased, associated with elevated levels of myelin basic protein. However, myelin pattern was unaltered in adult BTBR mice, revealing accelerated developmental trajectory of myelination. Consistently, we found that signaling of platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRα) was reduced in the frontal brain of neonatal BTBR mice. However, levels of microRNA species known to regulate PDGFRα signaling and myelination were unaltered. Together, these results suggest that precocious myelination could potentially contribute to increased volume and connectivity of the white matter observed in young children with ASD.
Animals, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Brain, Disease Models, Animal, Female, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Neurologic Mutants, Myelin Basic Protein, Nerve Fibers, Myelinated, Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha, White Matter