Microdeletions of the MEF2C gene are linked to a syndromic form of autism termed MEF2C haploinsufficiency syndrome (MCHS). Here, we show that MCHS-associated missense mutations cluster in the conserved DNA binding domain and disrupt MEF2C DNA binding. DNA binding-deficient global Mef2c heterozygous mice (Mef2c-Het) display numerous MCHS-like behaviors, including autism-related behaviors, as well as deficits in cortical excitatory synaptic transmission. We find that hundreds of genes are dysregulated in Mef2c-Het cortex, including significant enrichments of autism risk and excitatory neuron genes. In addition, we observe an enrichment of upregulated microglial genes, but not due to neuroinflammation in the Mef2c-Het cortex. Importantly, conditional Mef2c heterozygosity in forebrain excitatory neurons reproduces a subset of the Mef2c-Het phenotypes, while conditional Mef2c heterozygosity in microglia reproduces social deficits and repetitive behavior. Together our findings suggest that MEF2C regulates typical brain development and function through multiple cell types, including excitatory neuronal and neuroimmune populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)