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      NRXN1 Deletion and Exposure to Methylmercury Increase Astrocyte Differentiation by Different Notch-Dependent Transcriptional Mechanisms

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          Controversial evidence points to a possible involvement of methylmercury (MeHg) in the etiopathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In the present study, we used human neuroepithelial stem cells from healthy donors and from an autistic patient bearing a bi-allelic deletion in the gene encoding for NRXN1 to evaluate whether MeHg would induce cellular changes comparable to those seen in cells derived from the ASD patient. In healthy cells, a subcytotoxic concentration of MeHg enhanced astroglial differentiation similarly to what observed in the diseased cells (N1), as shown by the number of GFAP positive cells and immunofluorescence signal intensity. In both healthy MeHg-treated and N1 untreated cells, aberrations in Notch pathway activity seemed to play a critical role in promoting the differentiation toward glia. Accordingly, treatment with the established Notch inhibitor DAPT reversed the altered differentiation. Although our data are not conclusive since only one of the genes involved in ASD is considered, the results provide novel evidence suggesting that developmental exposure to MeHg, even at subcytotoxic concentrations, induces alterations in astroglial differentiation similar to those observed in ASD.

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          Most cited references 82

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          Induction of pluripotent stem cells from adult human fibroblasts by defined factors.

          Successful reprogramming of differentiated human somatic cells into a pluripotent state would allow creation of patient- and disease-specific stem cells. We previously reported generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, capable of germline transmission, from mouse somatic cells by transduction of four defined transcription factors. Here, we demonstrate the generation of iPS cells from adult human dermal fibroblasts with the same four factors: Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. Human iPS cells were similar to human embryonic stem (ES) cells in morphology, proliferation, surface antigens, gene expression, epigenetic status of pluripotent cell-specific genes, and telomerase activity. Furthermore, these cells could differentiate into cell types of the three germ layers in vitro and in teratomas. These findings demonstrate that iPS cells can be generated from adult human fibroblasts.
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            Transcriptomic Analysis of Autistic Brain Reveals Convergent Molecular Pathology

            Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common, highly heritable neuro-developmental condition characterized by marked genetic heterogeneity 1–3 . Thus, a fundamental question is whether autism represents an etiologically heterogeneous disorder in which the myriad genetic or environmental risk factors perturb common underlying molecular pathways in the brain 4 . Here, we demonstrate consistent differences in transcriptome organization between autistic and normal brain by gene co-expression network analysis. Remarkably, regional patterns of gene expression that typically distinguish frontal and temporal cortex are significantly attenuated in the ASD brain, suggesting abnormalities in cortical patterning. We further identify discrete modules of co-expressed genes associated with autism: a neuronal module enriched for known autism susceptibility genes, including the neuronal specific splicing factor A2BP1/FOX1, and a module enriched for immune genes and glial markers. Using high-throughput RNA-sequencing we demonstrate dysregulated splicing of A2BP1-dependent alternative exons in ASD brain. Moreover, using a published autism GWAS dataset, we show that the neuronal module is enriched for genetically associated variants, providing independent support for the causal involvement of these genes in autism. In contrast, the immune-glial module showed no enrichment for autism GWAS signals, indicating a non-genetic etiology for this process. Collectively, our results provide strong evidence for convergent molecular abnormalities in ASD, and implicate transcriptional and splicing dysregulation as underlying mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction in this disorder.
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              Critical periods of vulnerability for the developing nervous system: evidence from humans and animal models.

               Greg Rice,  S Barone (2000)
              Vulnerable periods during the development of the nervous system are sensitive to environmental insults because they are dependent on the temporal and regional emergence of critical developmental processes (i.e., proliferation, migration, differentiation, synaptogenesis, myelination, and apoptosis). Evidence from numerous sources demonstrates that neural development extends from the embryonic period through adolescence. In general, the sequence of events is comparable among species, although the time scales are considerably different. Developmental exposure of animals or humans to numerous agents (e.g., X-ray irradiation, methylazoxymethanol, ethanol, lead, methyl mercury, or chlorpyrifos) demonstrates that interference with one or more of these developmental processes can lead to developmental neurotoxicity. Different behavioral domains (e.g., sensory, motor, and various cognitive functions) are subserved by different brain areas. Although there are important differences between the rodent and human brain, analogous structures can be identified. Moreover, the ontogeny of specific behaviors can be used to draw inferences regarding the maturation of specific brain structures or neural circuits in rodents and primates, including humans. Furthermore, various clinical disorders in humans (e.g., schizophrenia, dyslexia, epilepsy, and autism) may also be the result of interference with normal ontogeny of developmental processes in the nervous system. Of critical concern is the possibility that developmental exposure to neurotoxicants may result in an acceleration of age-related decline in function. This concern is compounded by the fact that developmental neurotoxicity that results in small effects can have a profound societal impact when amortized across the entire population and across the life span of humans. Images Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 12 Figure 14 Figure 16 Figure 17

                Author and article information

                Front Genet
                Front Genet
                Front. Genet.
                Frontiers in Genetics
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                21 June 2019
                : 10
                1Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden
                2Centre for Molecular Medicine, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden
                3Department of Clinical Genetics, Karolinska University Hospital , Stockholm, Sweden
                Author notes

                Edited by: Joao Batista Teixeira da Rocha, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil

                Reviewed by: Mariana Appel Hort, Fundação Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil; Yasukazu Takanezawa, Kitasato University, Japan; Gabriela De Paula Fonseca Arrifano, Federal University of Pará, Brazil; Aaron B. Bowman, Purdue University, United States; Eduardo Luiz Gasnhar Moreira, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

                *Correspondence: Marilena Raciti, marilenaraciti1@

                This article was submitted to Toxicogenomics, a section of the journal Frontiers in Genetics

                Copyright © 2019 Raciti, Salma, Spulber, Gaudenzi, Khalajzeyqami, Conti, Anderlid, Falk, Hermanson and Ceccatelli.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 6, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 84, Pages: 15, Words: 0
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