Deficits in social and communication behaviors are common features of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the molecular and cellular substrates of these higher order brain functions are not well understood. Here we report that specific alterations in social and communication behaviors in mice occur as a result of loss of the EPAC2 gene, which encodes a protein kinase A-independent cAMP target. Epac2-deficient mice exhibited robust deficits in social interactions and ultrasonic vocalizations, but displayed normal olfaction, working and reference memory, motor abilities, anxiety, and repetitive behaviors. Epac2-deficient mice displayed abnormal columnar organization in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region implicated in social behavior in humans, but not in somatosensory cortex. In vivo two-photon imaging revealed reduced dendritic spine motility and density on cortical neurons in Epac2-deficient mice, indicating deficits at the synaptic level. Together, these findings provide novel insight into the molecular and cellular substrates of social and communication behavior.
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