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The possible interplay of synaptic and clock genes in autism spectrum disorders.

Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology

physiology, genetics, Synapses, physiopathology, complications, Sleep Disorders, Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Models, Neurological, Models, Genetic, Membrane Proteins, therapeutic use, Melatonin, Male, Humans, Female, Circadian Rhythm, Child, Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal, Carrier Proteins, drug therapy, Autistic Disorder

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      Abstract

      Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by deficits in social communication, absence or delay in language, and stereotyped and repetitive behaviors. Results from genetic studies reveal one pathway associated with susceptibility to ASD, which includes the synaptic cell adhesion molecules NLGN3, NLGN4, and NRXN1 and a postsynaptic scaffolding protein SHANK3. This protein complex is crucial for the maintenance of functional synapses as well as the adequate balance between neuronal excitation and inhibition. Among the factors that could modulate this pathway are the genes controlling circadian rhythms. Indeed, sleep disorders and low melatonin levels are frequently observed in ASD. In this context, an alteration of both this synaptic pathway and the setting of the clock would greatly increase the risk of ASD. In this chapter, I report genetic and neurobiological findings that highlight the major role of synaptic and clock genes in the susceptibility to ASD. On the basis of these lines of evidence, I propose that future studies of ASD should investigate the circadian modulation of synaptic function as a focus for functional analyses and the development of new therapeutic strategies.

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      Most cited references 77

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      Strong association of de novo copy number mutations with autism.

      We tested the hypothesis that de novo copy number variation (CNV) is associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We performed comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) on the genomic DNA of patients and unaffected subjects to detect copy number variants not present in their respective parents. Candidate genomic regions were validated by higher-resolution CGH, paternity testing, cytogenetics, fluorescence in situ hybridization, and microsatellite genotyping. Confirmed de novo CNVs were significantly associated with autism (P = 0.0005). Such CNVs were identified in 12 out of 118 (10%) of patients with sporadic autism, in 2 out of 77 (3%) of patients with an affected first-degree relative, and in 2 out of 196 (1%) of controls. Most de novo CNVs were smaller than microscopic resolution. Affected genomic regions were highly heterogeneous and included mutations of single genes. These findings establish de novo germline mutation as a more significant risk factor for ASD than previously recognized.
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        Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind” ?

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          Mutations in the gene encoding the synaptic scaffolding protein SHANK3 are associated with autism spectrum disorders.

          SHANK3 (also known as ProSAP2) regulates the structural organization of dendritic spines and is a binding partner of neuroligins; genes encoding neuroligins are mutated in autism and Asperger syndrome. Here, we report that a mutation of a single copy of SHANK3 on chromosome 22q13 can result in language and/or social communication disorders. These mutations concern only a small number of individuals, but they shed light on one gene dosage-sensitive synaptic pathway that is involved in autism spectrum disorders.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1101/sqb.2007.72.020
            18419324

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