Autism: Many Genes, Common Pathways?

Neurogenetics Program, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Cell (Impact Factor: 31.96). 11/2008; 135(3):391-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2008.10.016
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Autism is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental syndrome with a complex genetic etiology. It is still not clear whether autism comprises a vast collection of different disorders akin to intellectual disability or a few disorders sharing common aberrant pathways. Unifying principles among cases of autism are likely to be at the level of brain circuitry in addition to molecular pathways.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Semaphorins have an important role in synapse refinement in the mammalian nervous system. The class 3 semaphorin-3F (Sema3F) acting through neuropilin 2/plexin-A3 (Nrp2/PlexA3) holoreceptor complex signals in vivo to restrain apical dendritic spine morphogenesis of cortical pyramidal neurons and hippocampal neurons during postnatal development and mediates excitatory synaptic transmission. Semaphorin signaling has been implicated in the etiology of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders; however, the effects on behavior and mental function of dysregulated Sema3F-Nrp2 signaling have not been fully addressed. The present study is the first behavioral investigation of mice harboring a mutation of the nrp2 gene. Given that loss of Nrp2 signaling alters cortical and hippocampal synaptic organization, we investigated performance of nrp2-deficient mice on learning and sensorimotor function that are known to depend on cortical and hippocampal circuitry. When compared with age-matched controls, nrp2 null mice showed striking impairments in object recognition memory and preference for social novelty. In addition, nrp2(-/-) mice displayed impaired motor function in the rotarod test and in observations of grooming behavior. Exploration of novel olfactory sensory stimuli and nociception were unaffected by the loss of Nrp2. Overall, loss of Nrp2 may induce aberrant processing within hippocampal and corticostriatal networks that may contribute to neurodevelopmental disease mechanisms.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined by impaired social interaction and communication accompanied by stereotyped behaviors and restricted interests. Although ASD is common, its genetic and clinical features are highly heterogeneous. A number of recent breakthroughs have dramatically advanced our understanding of ASD from the standpoint of human genetics and neuropathology. These studies highlight the period of fetal development and the processes of chromatin structure, synaptic function, and neuron-glial signaling. The initial efforts to systematically integrate findings of multiple levels of genomic data and studies of mouse models have yielded new clues regarding ASD pathophysiology. This early work points to an emerging convergence of disease mechanisms in this complex and etiologically heterogeneous disorder.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Schizophrenia (SCZ) are cognitive disorders with complex genetic architectures but overlapping behavioral phenotypes, which suggests common pathway perturbations. Multiple lines of evidence implicate imbalances in excitatory and inhibitory activity (E/I imbalance) as a shared pathophysiological mechanism. Thus, understanding the molecular underpinnings of E/I imbalance may provide essential insight into the etiology of these disorders and may uncover novel targets for future drug discovery. Here, we review key genetic, physiological, neuropathological, functional, and pathway studies that suggest alterations to excitatory/inhibitory circuits are keys to ASD and SCZ pathogenesis.
    Current Molecular Medicine 03/2015; · 3.61 Impact Factor


Available from