Journal article

Differential impact of polysialyltransferase ST8SiaII and ST8iaIV knockout on social interaction and aggression

Previous studies using neuronal cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) -/- knockout (KO) mice provided evidence for a role of NCAMs in social behaviors. However, polysialic acid (PSA), the most important post-translational modification of NCAM, was also absent in these mice, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the specific involvement of either PSA or NCAM in social interactions. To address this issue, we assessed two lines of mice deficient for one of the two sialyltransferase enzymes required for the polysialylation of NCAM, sialyltransferase-X (St8SiaII or STX) and polysialyltransferase (ST8SiaIV or PST), in a series of tests for social behaviors. Results showed that PST KO mice display a decreased motivation in social interaction. This deficit can be partly explained by olfactory deficits and was associated with a clear decrease in PSA-NCAM expression in all brain regions analyzed (amygdala, septum, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and frontal cortices). STX KO mice displayed both a decreased social motivation and an increased aggressive behavior that cannot be explained by olfactory deficits. This finding might be related to the reduced anxiety-like behavior, increased locomotion and stress-induced corticosterone secretion observed in these mice. Moreover, STX KO mice showed mild increase of PSA-NCAM expression in the lateral septum and the orbitofrontal cortex. Altogether, these findings support a role for PSA-NCAM in the regulation of social behaviors ranging from a lack of social motivation to aggression. They also underscore STX KO mice as an interesting animal model that combines a behavioral profile of violence and hyperactivity with reduced anxiety-like behavior.


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