Background: Recent genetic association studies have linked the cadherin-based adherens junction protein alpha-T-catenin (αT-cat, CTNNA3) with the development of autism. Where αT-cat is expressed in the brain, and how its loss could contribute to this disorder, are entirely unknown. Methods: We used the αT-cat knockout mouse to examine the localization of αT-cat in the brain, and we used histology and immunofluorescence analysis to examine the neurobiological consequences of its loss. Results: We found that αT-cat comprises the ependymal cell junctions of the ventricles of the brain, and its loss led to compensatory upregulation of aE-cat expression. Notably, αT-cat was not detected within the choroid plexus, which relies on cell junction components common to typical epithelial cells. While αT-cat was not detected in neurons of the cerebral cortex, it was abundantly detected within neuronal structures of the molecular layer of the cerebellum. Although αT-cat loss led to no overt differences in cerebral or cerebellar structure, RNA-sequencing analysis from wild type versus knockout cerebella identified a number of disease-relevant signaling pathways associated with αT-cat loss, such as GABA-A receptor activation. Conclusions: These findings raise the possibility that the genetic associations between αT-cat and autism may be due to ependymal and cerebellar defects, and highlight the potential importance of a seemingly redundant adherens junction component to a neurological disorder.
- Adherens junction
- Alzheimer's disease
- Choroid plexus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience