In utero Exposure to Valproic Acid throughout Pregnancy Causes Phenotypes of Autism in Offspring Mice

Takayuki Mitsuhashi, Satoko Hattori, Kimino Fujimura, Shinsuke Shibata, Tsuyoshi Miyakawa, Takao Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Valproic acid (VPA) is an antiepileptic drug that inhibits the epileptic activity of neurons mainly by inhibiting sodium channels and GABA transaminase. VPA is also known to inhibit histone deacetylases, which epigenetically modify the cell proliferation/differentiation characteristics of stem/progenitor cells within developing tissues. Recent clinical studies in humans have indicated that VPA exposure in utero increases the risk of autistic features and intellectual disabilities in offspring; we have previously reported that low-dose VPA exposure in utero throughout pregnancy increases the production of projection neurons from neuronal stem/progenitor cells that are distributed in the superficial neocortical layers of the fetal brain. In the present study, we found that in utero VPA-exposed mice exhibited abnormal social interaction, changes in cognitive function, hypersensitivity to pain/heat, and impaired locomotor activity, all of which are characteristic symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in humans. Taken together, our findings indicate that VPA exposure in utero throughout pregnancy alters higher brain function and predisposes individuals to phenotypes that resemble autism and intellectual disability. Furthermore, these symptoms are likely to be due to neocortical dysgenesis that was caused by an increased number of projection neurons in specific layers of the neocortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Oct 1


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Child neurology
  • Neocortex
  • Neuronogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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