[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dendritic spines are small protrusions that correspond to the post-synaptic compartments of excitatory synapses in the central nervous system. They are distributed along the dendrites. Their morphology is largely dependent on neuronal activity, and they are dynamic. Dendritic spines express glutamatergic receptors (AMPA and NMDA receptors) on their surface and at the levels of postsynaptic densities. Each spine allows the neuron to control its state and local activity independently. Spine morphologies have been extensively studied in glutamatergic pyramidal cells of the brain cortex, using both in vivo approaches and neuronal cultures obtained from rodent tissues. Neuropathological conditions can be associated to altered spine induction and maturation, as shown in rodent cultured neurons and one-dimensional quantitative analysis (1). The present study describes a protocol for the 3D quantitative analysis of spine morphologies using human cortical neurons derived from neural stem cells (late cortical progenitors). These cells were initially obtained from induced pluripotent stem cells. This protocol allows the analysis of spine morphologies at different culture periods, and with possible comparison between induced pluripotent stem cells obtained from control individuals with those obtained from patients with psychiatric diseases.
No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Visualized Experiments
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Semaphorins are a large family of secreted and membrane-associated proteins necessary for wiring of the brain. Semaphorin 5A (SEMA5A) acts as a bifunctional guidance cue, exerting both attractive and inhibitory effects on developing axons. Previous studies have suggested that SEMA5A could be a susceptibility gene for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We first identified a de novo translocation t(5;22)(p15.3;q11.21) in a patient with ASD and intellectual disability (ID). At the translocation breakpoint on chromosome 5, we observed a 861-kb deletion encompassing the end of the SEMA5A gene. We delineated the breakpoint by NGS and observed that no gene was disrupted on chromosome 22. We then used Sanger sequencing to search for deleterious variants affecting SEMA5A in 142 patients with ASD. We also identified two independent heterozygous variants located in a conserved functional domain of the protein. Both variants were maternally inherited and predicted as deleterious. Our genetic screens identified the first case of a de novo SEMA5A microdeletion in a patient with ASD and ID. Although our study alone cannot formally associate SEMA5A with susceptibility to ASD, it provides additional evidence that Semaphorin dysfunction could lead to ASD and ID. Further studies on Semaphorins are warranted to better understand the role of this family of genes in susceptibility to neurodevelopmental disorders.European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 23 September 2015; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2015.211.
No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · European journal of human genetics: EJHG
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genetics studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have identified several risk genes that are key regulators of synaptic plasticity. Indeed, many of the risk genes that have been linked to these disorders encode synaptic scaffolding proteins, receptors, cell adhesion molecules or proteins that are involved in chromatin remodelling, transcription, protein synthesis or degradation, or actin cytoskeleton dynamics. Changes in any of these proteins can increase or decrease synaptic strength or number and, ultimately, neuronal connectivity in the brain. In addition, when deleterious mutations occur, inefficient genetic buffering and impaired synaptic homeostasis may increase an individual's risk for ASD.
No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Nature Reviews Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Motivated by applications in neuroanatomy, we propose a novel methodology for
estimating the heritability which corresponds to the proportion of phenotypic
variance which can be explained by genetic factors. Estimating this quantity
for neuroanatomical features is a fundamental challenge in psychiatric disease
research. Since the phenotypic variations may only be due to a small fraction
of the available genetic information, we propose an estimator of the
heritability that can be used in high dimensional sparse linear mixed models.
Our method consists of three steps. Firstly, a variable selection stage is
performed in order to recover the support of the genetic effects -- also called
causal variants -- that is to find the genetic effects which really explain the
phenotypic variations. Secondly, we propose a maximum likelihood strategy for
estimating the heritability which only takes into account the causal genetic
effects found in the first step. Thirdly, we compute the standard error and the
95% confidence interval associated to our heritability estimator thanks to a
nonparametric bootsrap approach. Our main contribution consists in providing an
estimation of the heritability with standard errors substantially smaller than
methods without variable selection. We illustrate the performance of our
methodology on synthetic and real neuroanatomic data coming from the Imagen
project. We also show that our approach has a very low computational burden and
is very efficient from a statistical point of view.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ESSENCE refers to early symptomatic syndromes eliciting neurodevelopmental clinical examinations. It includes a broad range of early onset neurodevelopmental disorders affecting more than 10% of children before 5 years of age. ESSENCE includes among others attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Some degree of disability is the rule rather than the exception. The causes are heterogeneous ranging from extreme social deprivation, pre- and perinatal risk factors, genetic and metabolic diseases, immune and infectious disorders, nutritional factors, physical trauma, and postnatal toxic and environmental factors (and combinations/interactions of some or several of these). Treatments often involve a combination of psychoeducational interventions, home- and school-based programmes, and medication. Here, I will first briefly review our main knowledge on the biological pathways associated with early onset neurodevelopmental disorders and will provide useful links to be informed of the progress in the field. Five main pathways are associated with ASD and ID: chromatin remodelling, cytoskeleton dynamics, mRNA translation, metabolism and synapse formation/function. I will then detail three propositions coming from institutions, researchers and/or communities of patients and families to foster research: 1) to use more dimensional and quantitative data than diagnostic categories; 2) to increase data sharing and research on genetic and brain diversity in human populations; 3) to involve patients and relatives as participants for research. Finally, I will provide examples of very stimulating initiatives towards a more inclusive world for individuals with ESSENCE.
No preview · Article · May 2015 · Nordic journal of psychiatry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Social communication is heavily affected in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders. Accordingly, mouse models designed to study the mechanisms leading to these disorders are tested for this phenotypic trait. Test conditions vary between different models, and the effect of these test conditions on the quantity and quality of social interactions and ultrasonic communication is unknown. The present study examines to which extent the habituation time to the test cage as well as the shape / size of the cage influence social communication in freely interacting mice. We tested 8 pairs of male mice in free dyadic social interactions, with two habituation times (20 min and 30 min) and three cage formats (rectangle, round, square). We tested the effect of these conditions on the different types of social contacts, approach-escape sequences, follow behavior, and the time each animal spent in the vision field of the other one, as well as on the emission of ultrasonic vocalizations and their contexts of emission. We provide for the first time an integrated analysis of the social interaction behavior and ultrasonic vocalizations. Surprisingly, we did not highlight any significant effect of habituation time and cage shape / size on the behavioral events examined. There was only a slight increase of social interactions with the longer habituation time in the round cage. Remarkably, we also showed that vocalizations were emitted during specific behavioral sequences especially during close contact or approach behaviors. The present study provides a protocol reliably eliciting social contacts and ultrasonic vocalizations in adult male mice. This protocol is therefore well adapted for standardized investigation of social interactions in mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Elevated whole-blood serotonin and decreased plasma melatonin (a circadian synchronizer hormone that derives from serotonin) have been reported independently in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here, we explored, in parallel, serotonin, melatonin and the intermediate N-acetylserotonin (NAS) in a large cohort of patients with ASD and their relatives. We then investigated the clinical correlates of these biochemical parameters. Whole-blood serotonin, platelet NAS and plasma melatonin were assessed in 278 patients with ASD, their 506 first-degree relatives (129 unaffected siblings, 199 mothers and 178 fathers) and 416 sex-and age-matched controls. We confirmed the previously reported hyperserotonemia in ASD (40% (35-46%) of patients), as well as the deficit in melatonin (51% (45-57%)), taking as a threshold the 95th or 5th percentile of the control group, respectively. In addition, this study reveals an increase of NAS (47% (41-54%) of patients) in platelets, pointing to a disruption of the serotonin-NAS-melatonin pathway in ASD. Biochemical impairments were also observed in the first-degree relatives of patients. A score combining impairments of serotonin, NAS and melatonin distinguished between patients and controls with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 85%. In patients the melatonin deficit was only significantly associated with insomnia. Impairments of melatonin synthesis in ASD may be linked with decreased 14-3-3 proteins. Although ASDs are highly heterogeneous, disruption of the serotonin-NAS-melatonin pathway is a very frequent trait in patients and may represent a useful biomarker for a large subgroup of individuals with ASD.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Translational Psychiatry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Human brain anatomy is strikingly diverse and highly inheritable: genetic factors may explain up to 80% of its variability. Prior studies have tried to detect genetic variants with a large effect on neuroanatomical diversity, but those currently identified account for <5% of the variance. Here, based on our analyses of neuroimaging and whole-genome genotyping data from 1765 subjects, we show that up to 54% of this heritability is captured by large numbers of single-nucleotide polymorphisms of small-effect spread throughout the genome, especially within genes and close regulatory regions. The genetic bases of neuroanatomical diversity appear to be relatively independent of those of body size (height), but shared with those of verbal intelligence scores. The study of this genomic architecture should help us better understand brain evolution and disease.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 16 September 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.99.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SHANK genes code for scaffold proteins located at the post-synaptic density of glutamatergic synapses. In neurons, SHANK2 and SHANK3 have a positive effect on the induction and maturation of dendritic spines, whereas SHANK1 induces the enlargement of spine heads. Mutations in SHANK genes have been associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but their prevalence and clinical relevance remain to be determined. Here, we performed a new screen and a meta-analysis of SHANK copy-number and coding-sequence variants in ASD. Copy-number variants were analyzed in 5,657 patients and 19,163 controls, coding-sequence variants were ascertained in 760 to 2,147 patients and 492 to 1,090 controls (depending on the gene), and, individuals carrying de novo or truncating SHANK mutations underwent an extensive clinical investigation. Copy-number variants and truncating mutations in SHANK genes were present in ∼1% of patients with ASD: mutations in SHANK1 were rare (0.04%) and present in males with normal IQ and autism; mutations in SHANK2 were present in 0.17% of patients with ASD and mild intellectual disability; mutations in SHANK3 were present in 0.69% of patients with ASD and up to 2.12% of the cases with moderate to profound intellectual disability. In summary, mutations of the SHANK genes were detected in the whole spectrum of autism with a gradient of severity in cognitive impairment. Given the rare frequency of SHANK1 and SHANK2 deleterious mutations, the clinical relevance of these genes remains to be ascertained. In contrast, the frequency and the penetrance of SHANK3 mutations in individuals with ASD and intellectual disability-more than 1 in 50-warrant its consideration for mutation screening in clinical practice.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background / Purpose:
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by a triad of symptoms: deficits in social interaction as well as cognitive and sensorimotor impairments. The aim of our study was to conduct the first whole brain tractography study in individuals with ASD, their first degree relatives and healthy controls. We hypothesisized that abnormalities in white matter tracts i.e brain disconnectivity may be an endophenotype.
The fronto occipital fasciculus may be an endophenotype of ASD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Vitamin D deficiency has been proposed as a possible risk factor for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) levels were examined in a cross-sectional population-based study in the Faroe Islands. The case group consisting of a total population cohort of 40 individuals with ASD (aged 15-24 years) had significantly lower 25(OH)D3 than their 62 typically-developing siblings and their 77 parents, and also significantly lower than 40 healthy age and gender matched comparisons. There was a trend for males having lower 25(OH)D3 than females. Effects of age, month/season of birth, IQ, various subcategories of ASD and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule score were also investigated, however, no association was found. The very low 25(OH)D3 in the ASD group suggests some underlying pathogenic mechanism.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although considerable evidence suggests that the chemical synapse is a lynchpin underlying affective disorders, how molecular insults differentially affect specific synaptic connections remains poorly understood. For instance, Neurexin 1a and 2 (NRXN1 and NRXN2) and CNTNAP2 (also known as CASPR2), all members of the neurexin superfamily of transmembrane molecules, have been implicated in neuropsychiatric disorders. However, their loss leads to deficits that have been best characterized with regard to their effect on excitatory cells. Notably, other disease-associated genes such as BDNF and ERBB4 implicate specific interneuron synapses in psychiatric disorders. Consistent with this, cortical interneuron dysfunction has been linked to epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism. Using a microarray screen that focused upon synapse-associated molecules, we identified Cntnap4 (contactin associated protein-like 4, also known as Caspr4) as highly enriched in developing murine interneurons. In this study we show that Cntnap4 is localized presynaptically and its loss leads to a reduction in the output of cortical parvalbumin (PV)-positive GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric acid producing) basket cells. Paradoxically, the loss of Cntnap4 augments midbrain dopaminergic release in the nucleus accumbens. In Cntnap4 mutant mice, synaptic defects in these disease-relevant neuronal populations are mirrored by sensory-motor gating and grooming endophenotypes; these symptoms could be pharmacologically reversed, providing promise for therapeutic intervention in psychiatric disorders.