Persistent spatial working memory deficits in rats following in utero RNAi of Dyx1c1


C. E. Szalkowski, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, Unit 1020, Storrs, CT 06269, USA. E-mail:


Disruptions in the development of the neocortex are associated with cognitive deficits in humans and other mammals. Several genes contribute to neocortical development, and research into the behavioral phenotype associated with specific gene manipulations is advancing rapidly. Findings include evidence that variants in the human gene DYX1C1 may be associated with an increased risk of developmental dyslexia. Concurrent research has shown that the rat homolog for this gene modulates critical parameters of early cortical development, including neuronal migration. Moreover, recent studies have shown auditory processing and spatial learning deficits in rats following in utero transfection of an RNA interference (RNAi) vector of the rat homolog Dyx1c1 gene. The current study examined the effects of in utero RNAi of Dyx1c1 on working memory performance in Sprague–Dawley rats. This task was chosen based on the evidence of short-term memory deficits in dyslexic populations, as well as more recent evidence of an association between memory deficits and DYX1C1 anomalies in humans. Working memory performance was assessed using a novel match-to-place radial water maze task that allows the evaluation of memory for a single brief (∼4–10 seconds) swim to a new goal location each day. A 10-min retention interval was used, followed by a test trial. Histology revealed migrational abnormalities and laminar disruption in Dyx1c1 RNAi-treated rats. Dyx1c1 RNAi-treated rats exhibited a subtle, but significant and persistent impairment in working memory as compared to Shams. These results provide further support for the role of Dyx1c1 in neuronal migration and working memory.