Mechanisms and therapeutic challenges in autism spectrum disorders: insights from Rett syndrome
ABSTRACT A major challenge for understanding neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), is to advance the findings from gene discovery to an exposition of neurobiological mechanisms that underlie these disorders and subsequently translate this knowledge into mechanism-based therapeutics. A promising way to proceed is revealed by the recent studies of rare subsets of ASDs. In this review, we summarize the latest advances in the mechanisms and emerging therapeutics for a rare single-gene ASD, Rett syndrome.
Rett syndrome is caused by mutations in the gene coding for methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Although MeCP2 has diverse functions, examination of MeCP2 mutant mice suggests the hypothesis that MeCP2 deficiency leads to aberrant maturation and maintenance of synapses and circuits in multiple brain systems. Some of the deficits arise from alterations in specific intracellular pathways such as the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. These abnormalities can be at least partially rescued in MeCP2 mutant mice by treatment with therapeutic agents.
Mechanism-based therapeutics are emerging for single-gene neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett syndrome. Given the complexity of MeCP2 function, future directions include combination therapeutics that target multiple molecules and pathways. Such approaches will likely be applicable to other ASDs as well.
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ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are genetically and clinically heterogeneous and lack effective medications to treat their core symptoms. Studies of syndromic ASDs caused by single gene mutations have provided insights into the pathophysiology of autism. Fragile X and Rett syndromes belong to the syndromic ASDs in which preclinical studies have identified rational targets for drug therapies focused on correcting underlying neural dysfunction. These preclinical discoveries are increasingly translating into exciting human clinical trials. Since there are significant molecular and neurobiological overlaps among ASDs, targeted treatments developed for fragile X and Rett syndromes may be helpful for autism of different etiologies. Here, we review the targeted pharmacological treatment of fragile X and Rett syndromes and discuss related issues in both preclinical studies and clinical trials of potential therapies for the diseases.Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 02/2015; 9:55. DOI:10.3389/fncel.2015.00055 · 4.18 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Language disorders cover a wide range of conditions with heterologous and overlapping phenotypes and complex etiologies harboring both genetic and environmental influences. Genetic approaches including the identification of genes linked to speech and language phenotypes and the characterization of normal and aberrant functions of these genes have, in recent years, unraveled complex details of molecular and cognitive mechanisms and provided valuable insight into the biological foundations of language. Consistent with this approach, we have reviewed the functional aspects of allelic variants of genes which are currently known to be either causally associated with disorders of speech and language or impact upon the spectrum of normal language ability. We have also reviewed candidate genes associated with heritable speech and language disorders. In addition, we have evaluated language phenotypes and associated genetic components in developmental syndromes that, together with a spectrum of altered language abilities, manifest various phenotypes and offer details of multifactorial determinants of language function. Data from this review have revealed a predominance of regulatory networks involved in the control of differentiation and functioning of neurons, neuronal tracks and connections among brain structures associated with both cognitive and language faculties. Our findings, furthermore, have highlighted several multifactorial determinants in overlapping speech and language phenotypes. Collectively this analysis has revealed an interconnected developmental network and a close association of the language faculty with cognitive functions, a finding that has the potential to provide insight into linguistic hypotheses defining in particular, the contribution of genetic elements to and the modular nature of the language faculty.Human Genetics 06/2013; DOI:10.1007/s00439-013-1317-0 · 4.52 Impact Factor