Experience-dependent maturation of neocortical circuits is required for normal sensory and cognitive abilities, which are distorted in neurodevelopmental disorders. We tested whether experience-dependent neocortical modifications require Ube3a, an E3 ubiquitin ligase whose dysregulation has been implicated in autism and Angelman syndrome. Using visual cortex as a model, we found that experience-dependent maturation of excitatory cortical circuits was severely impaired in Angelman syndrome model mice deficient in Ube3a. This developmental defect was associated with profound impairments in neocortical plasticity. Normal plasticity was preserved under conditions of sensory deprivation, but was rapidly lost by sensory experiences. The loss of neocortical plasticity is reversible, as late-onset visual deprivation restored normal synaptic plasticity. Furthermore, Ube3a-deficient mice lacked ocular dominance plasticity in vivo when challenged with monocular deprivation. We conclude that Ube3a is necessary for maintaining plasticity during experience-dependent neocortical development and suggest that the loss of neocortical plasticity contributes to deficits associated with Angelman syndrome.
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