Genetic modifications associated with ketogenic diet treatment in the BTBRT+Tf/J mouse model of autism spectrum disorder

Richelle Mychasiuk, Jong M. Rho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a prevalent and heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by hallmark behavioral features. The spectrum of disorders that fall within the ASD umbrella encompass a distinct but overlapping symptom complex that likely results from an array of molecular and genetic aberrations rather than a single genetic mutation. The ketogenic diet (KD) is a high-fat low-carbohydrate anti-seizure and neuroprotective diet that has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of ASD-like behaviors in animal and human studies. Methods: We investigated changes in mRNA and gene expression in the BTBR mouse model of ASD that may contribute to the behavioral phenotype. In addition, we sought to examine changes in gene expression following KD treatment in BTBR mice. Results: Despite significant behavioral abnormalities, expression changes in BTBR mice did not differ substantially from controls; only 33 genes were differentially expressed in the temporal cortex, and 48 in the hippocampus. Examination of these differentially expressed genes suggested deficits in the stress response and in neuronal signaling/communication. After treatment with the KD, both brain regions demonstrated improvements in ASD deficits associated with myelin formation and white matter development. Conclusions: Although our study supports many of the previously known impairments associated with ASD, such as excessive myelin formation and impaired GABAergic transmission, the RNAseq data and pathway analysis utilized here identified new therapeutic targets for analysis, such as Vitamin D pathways and cAMP signaling. Autism Res 2017, 10: 456–471.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-471
Number of pages16
JournalAutism Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • development
  • hippocampus
  • ketogenic diet
  • mitochondria
  • RNAseq
  • temporal cortex

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