Human mutations and haploinsufficiency of the SHANK family genes are associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). Complex phenotypes have been also described in all mouse models of Shank mutations and deletions, consistent with the heterogeneity of the human phenotypes. However, the specific role of Shank proteins in synapse and neuronal functions remain to be elucidated. Here, we generated a new mouse model to investigate how simultaneously deletion of Shank1 and Shank3 affects brain development and behavior in mice. Shank1–Shank3 DKO mice showed a low survival rate, a developmental strong reduction in the activation of intracellular signaling pathways involving Akt, S6, ERK1/2, and eEF2 during development and a severe behavioral impairments. Our study suggests that Shank1 and Shank3 proteins are essential to developmentally regulate the activation of Akt and correlated intracellular pathways crucial for mammalian postnatal brain development and synaptic plasticity. Therefore, Akt function might represent a new therapeutic target for enhancing cognitive abilities of syndromic ASD patients.
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