Pathological repetitive behaviors are a common feature of different neuropsychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. The Sapap3 knockout mouse (Sapap3-KO) is the current reference model used in translational psychiatry to study co-morbid repetitive behaviors, presenting both compulsive-like as well as tic-like behaviors. Consistent with clinical and fundamental research literature relating compulsive-like symptoms to associative cortico-striatal dysfunctions and tic-like symptoms to sensorimotor cortico-striatal dysfunctions, abnormalities comprising both circuits have been described in this mouse model. Findings reported on these mice point towards not only macro-, but also micro-circuitry deficits, both of which can be affected by neuronal structural changes. As such, in the present study, we aimed to investigate structural changes in associative and sensorimotor striatal areas that could affect information conduction. We used AxonDeepSeg, a deep learning algorithm designed to automatically segment and measure myelin thickness and axon caliber, and found that axon caliber, the main contributor for changes in conduction speed, is specifically reduced in the associative but not the sensorimotor striatum of the Sapap3-KO mouse. This smaller axon caliber in Sapap3-KO mice is not a general neuronal feature of this region, but specific to a subpopulation of axons with large caliber. These results point to a primary structural deficit in the associative striatum, affecting signal conduction and consequent connectivity.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience