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Candidate autism gene screen identifies critical role for cell-adhesion molecule CASPR2 in dendritic arborization and spine development.

Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Nancy Pritzker Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 10/2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1216398109
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Mutations in the contactin-associated protein 2 (CNTNAP2) gene encoding CASPR2, a neurexin-related cell-adhesion molecule, predispose to autism, but the function of CASPR2 in neural circuit assembly remains largely unknown. In a knockdown survey of autism candidate genes, we found that CASPR2 is required for normal development of neural networks. RNAi-mediated knockdown of CASPR2 produced a cell-autonomous decrease in dendritic arborization and spine development in pyramidal neurons, leading to a global decline in excitatory and inhibitory synapse numbers and a decrease in synaptic transmission without a detectable change in the properties of these synapses. Our data suggest that in addition to the previously described role of CASPR2 in mature neurons, where CASPR2 organizes nodal microdomains of myelinated axons, CASPR2 performs an earlier organizational function in developing neurons that is essential for neural circuit assembly and operates coincident with the time of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) pathogenesis.

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