Absence of preference for social novelty and increased grooming in integrin β3 knockout mice: initial studies and future directions.
Elevated whole blood serotonin 5-HT, or hyperserotonemia, is a common biomarker in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The integrin β3 receptor subunit gene (ITGB3) is a quantitative trait locus for whole blood 5-HT levels. Recent work shows that integrin β3 interacts with the serotonin transporter (SERT) in both platelets and in the midbrain. Furthermore, multiple studies have now reported gene-gene interaction between the integrin β3 and SERT genes in association with ASD. Given the lack of previous data on the impact of integrin β3 on brain or behavioral phenotypes, we sought to compare mice with decreased or absent expression of the integrin β3 receptor subunit (Itgb3 +/- and -/-) with wildtype littermate controls in behavioral tasks relevant to ASD. These mice did not show deficits in activity level in the open field or anxiety-like behavior on the elevated plus maze, two potential confounds in the evaluation of mouse social behavior. In the three-chamber social test, mice lacking integrin β3 were shown to have normal sociability but did not show a preference for social novelty. Importantly, the absence of integrin β3 did not impair olfaction or the ability to recall familiar social odors. Additionally, mice lacking integrin β3 showed increased grooming behavior in novel environments. These preliminary studies reveal altered social and repetitive behavior in these mice, which suggests that the integrin β3 subunit may be involved in brain systems relevant to ASD. Further work is needed to fully characterize these behavioral changes and the underlying brain mechanisms.