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The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) is a key regulator of excitatory (E) glutamate and inhibitory (I) γ-amino butyric acid (GABA) signalling in the brain. Despite the close functional ties between mGluR5 and E/I signalling, no-one has directly examined the relationship between mGluR5 and glutamate or GABA in vivo in the human brain of autistic individuals. We measured [18F] FPEB (18F-3-fluoro-5-[(pyridin-3-yl)ethynyl]benzonitrile) binding in 15 adults (6 with Autism Spectrum Disorder) using two regions of interest, the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and a region primarily composed of left striatum and thalamus. These two regions were mapped out using MEGA-PRESS voxels and then superimposed on reconstructed PET images. This allowed for direct comparison between mGluR5, GABA + and Glx. To better understand the molecular underpinnings of our results we used an autoradiography study of mGluR5 in three mouse models associated with ASD: Cntnap2 knockout, Shank3 knockout, and 16p11.2 deletion. Autistic individuals had significantly higher [18F] FPEB binding (t (13) = -2.86, p = 0.047) in the left striatum/thalamus region of interest as compared to controls. Within this region, there was a strong negative correlation between GABA + and mGluR5 density across the entire cohort (Pearson's correlation: r (14) = -0.763, p = 0.002). Cntnap2 KO mice had significantly higher mGlu5 receptor binding in the striatum (caudate-putamen) as compared to wild-type (WT) mice (n = 15, p = 0.03). There were no differences in mGluR5 binding for mice with the Shank3 knockout or 16p11.2 deletion. Given that Cntnap2 is associated with a specific striatal deficit of parvalbumin positive GABA interneurons and 'autistic' features, our findings suggest that an increase in mGluR5 in ASD may relate to GABAergic interneuron abnormalities.

Original publication




Journal article


Transl Psychiatry

Publication Date





Adult, Animals, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Disease Models, Animal, Glutamic Acid, Humans, Membrane Proteins, Mice, Microfilament Proteins, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Parvalbumins, Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid