abnormal neural excitation, inhibition, and synchrony in autism



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(Updated 5/28/05)

Polleux F, Lauder JM
Toward a developmental neurobiology of autism.
Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2004;10(4):303-17.
Autism is a complex, behaviorally defined, developmental brain disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 1,000. It is now clear that autism is not a disease, but a syndrome with a strong genetic component. The etiology of autism is poorly defined both at the cellular and the molecular levels. Based on the fact that seizure activity is frequently associated with autism and that abnormal evoked potentials have been observed in autistic individuals in response to tasks that require attention, several investigators have recently proposed that autism might be caused by an imbalance between excitation and inhibition in key neural systems including the cortex. Despite considerable ongoing effort toward the identification of chromosome regions affected in autism and the characterization of many potential gene candidates, only a few genes have been reproducibly shown to display specific mutations that segregate with autism, likely because of the complex polygenic nature of this syndrome. Among those, several candidate genes have been shown to control the early patterning and/or the late synaptic maturation of specific neuronal subpopulations controlling the balance between excitation and inhibition in the developing cortex and cerebellum. In the present article, we review our current understanding of the developmental mechanisms patterning the balance between excitation and inhibition in the context of the neurobiology of autism.
Taken together, these results suggest that the autistic brain might be characterized by a synchronization deficit during the activation of cortical networks involved in language processing (and maybe in other sensory modalities or attention) and that this synchronization deficit could be the result of an imbalance between excitation and inhibition [Rubenstein and Merzenich, 2003; Belmonte et al., 2004]. Although still speculative, this hypothesis is attractive because it is based on functional studies. The present review will discuss why this new hypothesis is especially attractive to describe the pathophysiology of the autistic brain in light of recent progress made in understanding the generation, migration, and differentiation of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons in the cortex. We will also discuss the development of neuromodulatory systems well known to control the global levels of neuronal excitability in the forebrain, including the serotonin inputs that have been suspected for a long time to be altered in the autistic brain. Finally, we review the classes of genes that have been linked to autism in recent genetic studies and discuss several candidate genes in the context of this neurodevelopmental hypothesis.

Brock J, Brown CC, Boucher J, Rippon G.
The temporal binding deficit hypothesis of autism.
Dev Psychopathol. 2002 Spring;14(2):209-24.
Frith has argued that people with autism show "weak central coherence," an unusual bias toward piecemeal rather than configurational processing and a reduction in the normal tendency to process information in context. However, the precise cognitive and neurological mechanisms underlying weak central coherence are still unknown. We propose the hypothesis that the features of autism associated with weak central coherence result from a reduction in the integration of specialized local neural networks in the brain caused by a deficit in temporal binding. The visuoperceptual anomalies associated with weak central coherence may be attributed to a reduction in synchronization of high-frequency gamma activity between local networks processing local features. The failure to utilize context in language processing in autism can be explained in similar terms. Temporal binding deficits could also contribute to executive dysfunction in autism and to some of the deficits in socialization and communication. [Abstract] [PDF]

Brown C, Gruber T, Boucher J, Rippon G, Brock J.
Gamma abnormalities during perception of illusory figures in autism.
Cortex. 2005 Jun;41(3):364-76.
This experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that perceptual abnormalities in autism might be associated with alteration of induced gamma activity patterns overlying visual cortical regions. EEG was recorded from six adolescents with autism and eight controls matched on chronological age, and verbal and nonverbal mental age, whilst identifying the presence or absence of an illusory Kanizsa shape. Although there were no reaction time or accuracy differences between the groups there were significant task-related differences in cortical activity. Control participants showed typical gamma-band activity over parietal regions at around 350 msec post onset of shape trials, similar to gamma patterns found in revious studies with non-impaired adults. In contrast, autistic participants showed overall increased activity, including an early 100 msec gamma peak and a late induced peak, 50 to 70 msec earlier than that shown by the control group. We interpret the abnormal gamma activity to reflect decreased "signal to noise" due to decreased inhibitory processing. In this experiment we did not establish a link between altered perception and abnormal gamma, as the autistic participants' behaviour did not differ from the controls. Future work should be designed to replicate this phenomenon and establish the perceptual consequences of altered gamma activity. [Abstract]

Koshino H, Carpenter PA, Minshew NJ, Cherkassky VL, Keller TA, Just MA.
Functional connectivity in an fMRI working memory task in high-functioning autism.
Neuroimage. 2005 Feb 1;24(3):810-21. Epub 2004 Nov 24.
An fMRI study was used to measure the brain activation of a group of adults with high-functioning autism compared to a Full Scale and Verbal IQ and age-matched control group during an n-back working memory task with letters. The behavioral results showed comparable performance, but the fMRI results suggested that the normal controls might use verbal codes to perform the task, while the adults with autism might use visual codes. The control group demonstrated more activation in the left than the right parietal regions, whereas the autism group showed more right lateralized activation in the prefrontal and parietal regions. The autism group also had more activation than the control group in the posterior regions including inferior temporal and occipital regions. The analysis of functional connectivity yielded similar patterns for the two groups with different hemispheric correlations. The temporal profile of the activity in the prefrontal regions was more correlated with the left parietal regions for the control group, whereas it was more correlated with the right parietal regions for the autism group. [Abstract] [PDF]

Just MA, Cherkassky VL, Keller TA, Minshew NJ.
Cortical activation and synchronization during sentence comprehension in high-functioning autism: evidence of underconnectivity.
Brain. 2004 Aug;127(Pt 8):1811-21. Epub 2004 Jun 23.
The brain activation of a group of high-functioning autistic participants was measured using functional MRI during sentence comprehension and the results compared with those of a Verbal IQ-matched control group. The groups differed in the distribution of activation in two of the key language areas. The autism group produced reliably more activation than the control group in Wernicke's (left laterosuperior temporal) area and reliably less activation than the control group in Broca's (left inferior frontal gyrus) area. Furthermore, the functional connectivity, i.e. the degree of synchronization or correlation of the time series of the activation, between the various participating cortical areas was consistently lower for the autistic than the control participants. These findings suggest that the neural basis of disordered language in autism entails a lower degree of information integration and synchronization across the large-scale cortical network for language processing. The article presents a theoretical account of the findings, related to neurobiological foundations of underconnectivity in autism. [Abstract]

Welsh JP, Ahn ES, Placantonakis DG.
Is autism due to brain desynchronization?
Int J Dev Neurosci. 2005 Apr-May;23(2-3):253-63.
The hypothesis is presented that a disruption in brain synchronization contributes to autism by destroying the coherence of brain rhythms and slowing overall cognitive processing speed. Particular focus is on the inferior olive, a precerebellar structure that is reliably disrupted in autism and which normally generates a coherent 5-13 Hz rhythmic output. New electrophysiological data reveal that the continuity of the rhythmical oscillation in membrane potential generated by inferior olive neurons requires the formation of neuronal assemblies by the connexin36 protein that mediates electrical synapses and promotes neuronal synchrony. An experiment with classical eyeblink conditioning is presented to demonstrate that the inferior olive is necessary to learn about sequences of stimuli presented at intervals in the range of 250-500 ms, but not at 700 ms, revealing that a disruption of the inferior olive slows stimulus processing speed on the time scale that is lost in autistic children. A model is presented in which the voltage oscillation generated by populations of electrically synchronized inferior olivary neurons permits the utilization of sequences of stimuli given at, or faster than, 2 per second. It is expected that the disturbance in inferior olive structure in autism disrupts the ability of inferior olive neurons to become electrically synchronized and to generate coherent rhythmic output, thereby impairing the ability to use rapid sequences of cues for the development of normal language skill. Future directions to test the hypothesis are presented. [Abstract]

Belmonte MK, Cook EH Jr, Anderson GM, Rubenstein JL, Greenough WT, Beckel-Mitchener A, Courchesne E, Boulanger LM, Powell SB, Levitt PR, Perry EK, Jiang YH, DeLorey TM, Tierney E.
Autism as a disorder of neural information processing: directions for research and targets for therapy.
Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Jul;9(7):646-63.
The broad variation in phenotypes and severities within autism spectrum disorders suggests the involvement of multiple predisposing factors, interacting in complex ways with normal developmental courses and gradients. Identification of these factors, and the common developmental path into which they feed, is hampered by the large degrees of convergence from causal factors to altered brain development, and divergence from abnormal brain development into altered cognition and behaviour. Genetic, neurochemical, neuroimaging, and behavioural findings on autism, as well as studies of normal development and of genetic syndromes that share symptoms with autism, offer hypotheses as to the nature of causal factors and their possible effects on the structure and dynamics of neural systems. Such alterations in neural properties may in turn perturb activity-dependent development, giving rise to a complex behavioural syndrome many steps removed from the root causes. Animal models based on genetic, neurochemical, neurophysiological, and behavioural manipulations offer the possibility of exploring these developmental processes in detail, as do human studies addressing endophenotypes beyond the diagnosis itself. [Abstract]

Courchesne E, Pierce K.
Why the frontal cortex in autism might be talking only to itself: local over-connectivity but long-distance disconnection.
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Apr;15(2):225-30.
Although it has long been thought that frontal lobe abnormality must play an important part in generating the severe impairment in higher-order social, emotional and cognitive functions in autism, only recently have studies identified developmentally early frontal lobe defects. At the microscopic level, neuroinflammatory reactions involving glial activation, migration defects and excess cerebral neurogenesis and/or defective apoptosis might generate frontal neural pathology early in development. It is hypothesized that these abnormal processes cause malformation and thus malfunction of frontal minicolumn microcircuitry. It is suggested that connectivity within frontal lobe is excessive, disorganized and inadequately selective, whereas connectivity between frontal cortex and other systems is poorly synchronized, weakly responsive and information impoverished. Increased local but reduced long-distance cortical-cortical reciprocal activity and coupling would impair the fundamental frontal function of integrating information from widespread and diverse systems and providing complex context-rich feedback, guidance and control to lower-level systems. [Abstract]

Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden D, Gomez J
Disruption in the inhibitory architecture of the cell minicolumn: implications for autisim.
Neuroscientist. 2003 Dec;9(6):496-507.
The modular arrangement of the neocortex is based on the cell minicolumn: a self-contained ecosystem of neurons and their afferent, efferent, and interneuronal connections. The authors' preliminary studies indicate that minicolumns in the brains of autistic patients are narrower, with an altered internal organization. More specifically, their minicolumns reveal less peripheral neuropil space and increased spacing among their constituent cells. The peripheral neuropil space of the minicolumn is the conduit, among other things, for inhibitory local circuit projections. A defect in these GABAergic fibers may correlate with the increased prevalence of seizures among autistic patients. This article expands on our initial findings by arguing for the specificity of GABAergic inhibition in the neocortex as being focused around its mini- and macrocolumnar organization. The authors conclude that GABAergic interneurons are vital to proper minicolumnar differentiation and signal processing (e.g., filtering capacity of the neocortex), thus providing a putative correlate to autistic symptomatology. [Abstract]

Fatemi SH, Halt AR, Stary JM, Kanodia R, Schulz SC, Realmuto GR
Glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 and 67 kDa proteins are reduced in autistic parietal and cerebellar cortices.
Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Oct 15;52(8):805-10.
BACKGROUND: A limited number of reports have demonstrated abnormalities involving the glutamate and gamma amino butyric acid systems in blood and platelets of subjects with autism. To further investigate these studies, brain levels of rate limiting enzyme, glutamic acid decarboxylase, which is responsible for normal conversion of glutamate to gamma amino butyric acid in the brain, were investigated. METHODS: Postmortem cerebellar and parietal cortices of age (mean +/- SD for controls 23 +/- 4.2, autistic 25.2 +/- 5.2 cerebellum; controls 23.5 +/- 4.8, autistic 21.6 +/- 3.8 parietal cortex), gender and postmortem interval-matched autistic and control subjects (n = 8 control, n = 5 autism, cerebellum; n = 4 control, n = 5 autism, parietal cortex) were subjected to SDS-PAGE and western blotting. Brain levels of glutamic acid decarboxylase proteins of 65 and 67 kDa and beta-actin were determined. RESULTS: Glutamic acid decarboxylase protein of 65 kDa was reduced by 48% and 50% in parietal and cerebellar (p <.02) areas of autistic brains versus controls respectively. By the same token, glutamic acid decarboxylase protein of 67 kDa was reduced by 61% and 51% in parietal (p <.03) and cerebellar areas of autistic brains versus controls respectively. Brain levels of beta-actin were essentially similar in both groups. CONCLUSIONS: The observed reductions in glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 and 67 kDa levels may account for reported increases of glutamate in blood and platelets of autistic subjects. Glutamic acid decarboxylase deficiency may be due to or associated with abnormalities in levels of glutamate/gamma amino butyric acid, or transporter/receptor density in autistic brain. [Abstract]

Purcell AE, Jeon OH, Zimmerman AW, Blue ME, Pevsner J
Postmortem brain abnormalities of the glutamate neurotransmitter system in autism.
Neurology. 2001 Nov 13;57(9):1618-28.
BACKGROUND: Studies examining the brains of individuals with autism have identified anatomic and pathologic changes in regions such as the cerebellum and hippocampus. Little, if anything, is known, however, about the molecules that are involved in the pathogenesis of this disorder. OBJECTIVE: To identify genes with abnormal expression levels in the cerebella of subjects with autism. METHOD: Brain samples from a total of 10 individuals with autism and 23 matched controls were collected, mainly from the cerebellum. Two cDNA microarray technologies were used to identify genes that were significantly up- or downregulated in autism. The abnormal mRNA or protein levels of several genes identified by microarray analysis were investigated using PCR with reverse transcription and Western blotting. alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazoleproprionic acid (AMPA)- and NMDA-type glutamate receptor densities were examined with receptor autoradiography in the cerebellum, caudate-putamen, and prefrontal cortex. RESULTS: The mRNA levels of several genes were significantly increased in autism, including excitatory amino acid transporter 1 and glutamate receptor AMPA 1, two members of the glutamate system. Abnormalities in the protein or mRNA levels of several additional molecules in the glutamate system were identified on further analysis, including glutamate receptor binding proteins. AMPA-type glutamate receptor density was decreased in the cerebellum of individuals with autism (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Subjects with autism may have specific abnormalities in the AMPA-type glutamate receptors and glutamate transporters in the cerebellum. These abnormalities may be directly involved in the pathogenesis of the disorder. [Abstract] [PDF]

Moreno-Fuenmayor H, Borjas L, Arrieta A, Valera V, Socorro-Candanoza L
Plasma excitatory amino acids in autism.
Invest Clin. 1996 Jun;37(2):113-28.
Plasma amino acid levels were measured by high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) in fourteen autistic children, all below 10 years of age. Mean glutamic and aspartic acid valued were elevated (169 +/- 142 uM and 22.1 +/- 13 uM respectively) together with taurine (90.1 +/- 78.7 uM) (p > 0.1). All affected children had low levels of glutamine (241 +/- 166 uM; p < 0.01) and asparagine (22.9 +/- 12.9 uM; p < 0.01) as compared to normal values (585 +/- 25 and 59.2 +/- 4.2 uM respectively); eleven children had increased aspartic acid and eight children had high levels of glutamate; seven of these children had a concomitant increment of taurine. The increment of the three above mentioned compounds was observed at the same time only in five children. These findings demonstrate that abnormal plasmatic levels of neurotransmitter amino acids may be found in some autistic children. Increased glutamatemia may be dietary in origin or may arise endogenously for several reasons, among others, metabolic derrangements in glutamate metabolism perhaps involving vitamin B6, defects or blockage of the glutamate receptor at the neuronal compartment, or alterations in the function of the neurotransmitters transporters. Increments of taurine, an inhibitor, is likely compensatory and calcium dependent. [Abstract]

Moreno H, Borjas L, Arrieta A, Sáez L, Prassad A, Estévez J, Bonilla E
[Clinical heterogeneity of the autistic syndrome: a study of 60 families]
Invest Clin. 1992;33(1):13-31.
Sixty families ascertained through a single proband, has helped to better define infantile autism as a heterogeneous group of disorders. Forty four patients showed a characteristic facio- auricular dysplasia. Twenty four of these, showed increased pyruvate and lactate and laboratory findings of metabolic acidosis i.e., anion gap above 18 mEq/L or serum bicarbonate below 21 mEq/L but only nine of these probands demonstrated reduction of plasma bicarbonate below 18 mEq/lt. Plasma amino acids in 17 probands and matched controls showed increased taurine with the rest of amino acids significantly (p less than 0.05) below the control level. Glutamate and aspartate were also significantly elevated (p less than 0.05; Student t-test). Segregation analysis in thirty four of these families which linked through at least one ancestral family name, suggested autosomal recessive inheritance (p = 0.20). Three out of eight probands who received megadoses of pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), subjectively gained in language abilities, affectivity and response to behavior modification therapy. Five autistic patients proved to have clinically defined syndromes: two with the Martin-Bell syndrome, and three girls affected respectively with the Rett syndrome, phenylketonuria and dicarboxylic aciduria. [Abstract]

Kuntz A, Clement HW, Lehnert W, van Calker D, Hennighausen K, Gerlach M, Schulz E
Effects of secretin on extracellular amino acid concentrations in rat hippocampus.
J Neural Transm. 2004 Jul;111(7):931-9.
In 1998, Horvath et al. (1998) observed a marked improvement in speech, eye contact, and attention in autistic children five weeks after treatment with secretin, which ocurred in the course of an endoscopic investigation. Since autism is hypothesized to be a hypoglutamatergic disorder we investigated the in vivo effects of secretin on extracellular amino acids in the rat brain. Studies were carried out on freely moving rats with microdialysis probes in the hippocampus. Amino acids were examined using tandem mass spectroscopy and HPLC/fluorometric detection. Following secretin injection (8.7 microg/kg i.p.), considerable increases in microdialysate glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels were observed; other amino acids were not affected. The observed increased microdialysate concentrations of glutamate and GABA following secretin application may explain the results of the Horvath study. [Abstract]

King BH, Wright DM, Handen BL, Sikich L, Zimmerman AW, McMahon W, Cantwell E, Davanzo PA, Dourish CT, Dykens EM, Hooper SR, Jaselskis CA, Leventhal BL, Levitt J, Lord C, Lubetsky MJ, Myers SM, Ozonoff S, Shah BG, Snape M, Shernoff EW, Williamson K, Cook EH
Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of amantadine hydrochloride in the treatment of children with autistic disorder.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001 Jun;40(6):658-65.
OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that amantadine hydrochloride is a safe and effective treatment for behavioral disturbances--for example, hyperactivity and irritability--in children with autism. METHOD: Thirty-nine subjects (intent to treat; 5-19 years old; IQ > 35) had autism diagnosed according to DSM-IV and ICD-10 criteria using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic. The Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Community Version (ABC-CV) and Clinical Global Impressions (CGI) scale were used as outcome variables. After a 1-week, single-blind placebo run-in, patients received a single daily dose of amantadine (2.5 mg/kg per day) or placebo for the next week, and then bid dosing (5.0 mg/kg per day) for the subsequent 3 weeks. RESULTS: When assessed on the basis of parent-rated ABC-CV ratings of irritability and hyperactivity, the mean placebo response rate was 37% versus amantadine at 47% (not significant). However, in the amantadine-treated group there were statistically significant improvements in absolute changes in clinician-rated ABC-CVs for hyperactivity (amantadine -6.4 versus placebo -2.1; p = .046) and inappropriate speech (-1.9 versus 0.4; p = .008). CGI scale ratings were higher in the amantadine group: 53% improved versus 25% (p = .076). Amantadine was well tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: Parents did not report statistically significant behavioral change with amantadine. However, clinician-rated improvements in behavioral ratings following treatment with amantadine suggest that further studies with this or other drugs acting on the glutamatergic system are warranted. The design of these and similar drug trials in children with autistic disorder must take into account the possibility of a large placebo response. [Abstract]

Posey DJ, Kem DL, Swiezy NB, Sweeten TL, Wiegand RE, McDougle CJ.
A pilot study of D-cycloserine in subjects with autistic disorder.
Am J Psychiatry.
2004 Nov;161(11):2115-7.
OBJECTIVE: The authors assessed the effects of D-cycloserine on the core symptom of social impairment in subjects with autism. METHOD: Following a 2-week, single-blind placebo lead-in phase, drug-free subjects with autistic disorder were administered three different doses of D-cycloserine during each of three 2-week periods. Measures used for subject ratings included the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale and Aberrant Behavior Checklist. RESULTS: Significant improvement was found on the CGI and social withdrawal subscale of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist. d-Cycloserine was well tolerated at most of the doses used in this study. CONCLUSIONS: In this pilot study, D-cycloserine treatment resulted in significant improvement in social withdrawal. Further controlled studies of D-cycloserine in autism appear warranted. [Abstract]

Carlsson ML
Hypothesis: is infantile autism a hypoglutamatergic disorder? Relevance of glutamate - serotonin interactions for pharmacotherapy.
J Neural Transm. 1998;105(4-5):525-35.
Based on 1) neuroanatomical and neuroimaging studies indicating aberrations in brain regions that are rich in glutamate neurons and 2) similarities between symptoms produced by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists in healthy subjects and those seen in autism, it is proposed in the present paper that infantile autism is a hypoglutamatergic disorder. Possible future pharmacological interventions in autism are discussed in the light of the intimate interplay between central glutamate and serotonin, notably the serotonin (5-HT) 2A receptor. The possible benefit of treatment with glutamate agonists [e.g. agents acting on the modulatory glycine site of the NMDA receptor, or so-called ampakines acting on the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptor] is discussed, as well as the potential usefulness of a selective 5-HT2A receptor antagonist. [Abstract]

Buxbaum JD, Silverman JM, Smith CJ, Greenberg DA, Kilifarski M, Reichert J, Cook EH, Fang Y, Song CY, Vitale R
Association between a GABRB3 polymorphism and autism.
Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(3):311-6.
Autistic disorder (OMIM 209850) is a disease with a significant genetic component of a complex nature.(1) Cytogenetic abnormalities in the Prader-Willi/Angelman syndrome critical region (15q11-13) have been described in several individuals with autism.(1) For this reason, markers across this region have been screened for evidence of linkage and association, and a marker (155CA-2) in the gamma-aminobutyric acid type-A receptor beta3 subunit gene (GABRB3) has been associated in one study(2) but not others.(3-5) We completed an association analysis with 155CA-2 using the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) in a set of 80 autism families (59 multiplex and 21 trios). We also used four additional markers (69CA, 155CA-1, 85CA, and A55CA-1) localized within 150 kb of 155CA-2. The use of multi-allelic TDT (MTDT) (P < 0.002), as well as the TDT (P < 0.004), demonstrated an association between autistic disorder and 155CA-2 in these families. Meiotic segregation distortion could be excluded as a possible cause for these results since no disequilibrium was observed in unaffected siblings. These findings support a role for genetic variants within the GABA receptor gene complex in 15q11-13 in autistic disorder. [Abstract]

McCauley JL, Olson LM, Delahanty R, Amin T, Nurmi EL, Organ EL, Jacobs MM, Folstein SE, Haines JL, Sutcliffe JS
A linkage disequilibrium map of the 1-Mb 15q12 GABA(A) receptor subunit cluster and association to autism.
Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2004 Nov 15;131(1):51-9.
Autism is a complex genetic neuropsychiatric condition characterized by deficits in social interaction and language and patterns of repetitive or stereotyped behaviors and restricted interests. Chromosome 15q11.2-q13 is a candidate region for autism susceptibility based on observations of chromosomal duplications in a small percentage of affected individuals and findings of linkage and association. We performed linkage disequilibrium (LD) mapping across a 1-Mb interval containing a cluster of GABA(A) receptor subunit genes (GABRB3, GABRA5, and GABRG3) which are good positional and functional candidates. Intermarker LD was measured for 59 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers spanning this region, corresponding to an average marker spacing of 17.7 kb(-1). We identified haplotype blocks, and characterized these blocks for common (>5%) haplotypes present in the study population. At this marker resolution, haplotype blocks comprise <50% of the DNA in this region, consistent with a high local recombination rate. Identification of haplotype tag SNPs reduces the overall number of markers necessary to detect all common alleles by only 12%. Individual SNPs and multi-SNP haplotypes were examined for evidence of allelic association to autism, using a dataset of 123 multiplex autism families. Six markers individually, across GABRB3 and GABRA5, and several haplotypes inclusive of those markers, demonstrated nominally significant association. These results are positively correlated with the position of observed linkage. These studies support the existence of one or more autism risk alleles in the GABA(A) receptor subunit cluster on 15q12 and have implications for analysis of LD and association in regions with high local recombination. [Abstract]

Shao Y, Cuccaro ML, Hauser ER, Raiford KL, Menold MM, Wolpert CM, Ravan SA, Elston L, Decena K, Donnelly SL, Abramson RK, Wright HH, DeLong GR, Gilbert JR, Pericak-Vance MA
Fine mapping of autistic disorder to chromosome 15q11-q13 by use of phenotypic subtypes.
Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Mar;72(3):539-48.
Autistic disorder (AutD) is a complex genetic disease. Available evidence suggests that several genes contribute to the underlying genetic risk for the development of AutD. However, both etiologic heterogeneity and genetic heterogeneity confound the discovery of AutD-susceptibility genes. Chromosome 15q11-q13 has been identified as a strong candidate region on the basis of both the frequent occurrence of chromosomal abnormalities in that region and numerous suggestive linkage and association findings. Ordered-subset analysis (OSA) is a novel statistical method to identify a homogeneous subset of families that contribute to overall linkage at a given chromosomal location and thus to potentially help in the fine mapping and localization of the susceptibility gene within a chromosomal area. For the present analysis, a factor that represents insistence on sameness (IS)--derived from a principal-component factor analysis using data on 221 patients with AutD from the repetitive behaviors/stereotyped patterns domain in the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised--was used as a covariate in OSA. Analysis of families sharing high scores on the IS factor increased linkage evidence for the 15q11-q13 region, at the GABRB3 locus, from a LOD score of 1.45 to a LOD score of 4.71. These results narrow our region of interest on chromosome 15 to an area surrounding the gamma-aminobutyric acid-receptor subunit genes, in AutD, and support the hypothesis that the analysis of phenotypic homogeneous subtypes may be a powerful tool for the mapping of disease-susceptibility genes in complex traits. [Abstract] [Full Text]

Menold MM, Shao Y, Wolpert CM, Donnelly SL, Raiford KL, Martin ER, Ravan SA, Abramson RK, Wright HH, Delong GR, Cuccaro ML, Pericak-Vance MA, Gilbert JR
Association analysis of chromosome 15 gabaa receptor subunit genes in autistic disorder.
J Neurogenet. 2001;15(3-4):245-59.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, acting via the GABAA receptors. The GABAA receptors are comprised of several different homologous subunits, forming a group of receptors that are both structurally and functionally diverse. Three of the GABAA receptor subunit genes (GABRB3, GABRA5 and GABRG3) form a cluster on chromosome 15q11-q13, in a region that has been genetically associated with autistic disorder (AutD). Based on these data, we examined 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located within GABRB3, GABRA5 and GABRG3 for linkage disequilibrium (LD) in 226 AutD families (AutD patients and parents). Genotyping was performed using either OLA (oligonucleotide ligation assay), or SSCP (single strand conformation polymorphism) followed by DNA sequencing. We tested for LD using the Pedigree Disequilibrium Test (PDT). PDT results gave significant evidence that AutD is associated with two SNPs located within the GABRG3 gene (exon5_539T/C, p=0.02 and intron5_687T/C, p=0.03), suggesting that the GABRG3 gene or a gene nearby contributes to genetic risk in AutD. [Abstract]

Nurmi EL, Dowd M, Tadevosyan-Leyfer O, Haines JL, Folstein SE, Sutcliffe JS
Exploratory subsetting of autism families based on savant skills improves evidence of genetic linkage to 15q11-q13.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;42(7):856-63.
OBJECTIVE: Autism displays a remarkably high heritability but a complex genetic etiology. One approach to identifying susceptibility loci under these conditions is to define more homogeneous subsets of families on the basis of genetically relevant phenotypic or biological characteristics that vary from case to case. METHOD: The authors performed a principal components analysis, using items from the Autism Diagnostic Interview, which resulted in six clusters of variables, five of which showed significant sib-sib correlation. The utility of these phenotypic subsets was tested in an exploratory genetic analysis of the autism candidate region on chromosome 15q11-q13. RESULTS: When the Collaborative Linkage Study of Autism sample was divided, on the basis of mean proband score for the "savant skills" cluster, the heterogeneity logarithm of the odds under a recessive model at D15S511, within the GABRB3 gene, increased from 0.6 to 2.6 in the subset of families in which probands had greater savant skills. CONCLUSIONS: These data are consistent with the genetic contribution of a 15q locus to autism susceptibility in a subset of affected individuals exhibiting savant skills. Similar types of skills have been noted in individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, which results from deletions of this chromosomal region. [Abstract]

Samaco RC, Hogart A, LaSalle JM
Epigenetic overlap in autism-spectrum neurodevelopmental disorders: MECP2 deficiency causes reduced expression of UBE3A and GABRB3.
Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Feb 15;14(4):483-92.
Autism is a common neurodevelopmental disorder of complex genetic etiology. Rett syndrome, an X-linked dominant disorder caused by MECP2 mutations, and Angelman syndrome, an imprinted disorder caused by maternal 15q11-q13 or UBE3A deficiency, have phenotypic and genetic overlap with autism. MECP2 encodes methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 that acts as a transcriptional repressor for methylated gene constructs but is surprisingly not required for maintaining imprinted gene expression. Here, we test the hypothesis that MECP2 deficiency may affect the level of expression of UBE3A and neighboring autism candidate gene GABRB3 without necessarily affecting imprinted expression. Multiple quantitative methods were used including automated quantitation of immunofluorescence and in situ hybridization by laser scanning cytometry on tissue microarrays, immunoblot and TaqMan PCR. The results demonstrated significant defects in UBE3A/E6AP expression in two different Mecp2 deficient mouse strains and human Rett, Angelman and autism brains compared with controls. Although no difference was observed in the allelic expression of several imprinted transcripts in Mecp2-null brain, Ube3a sense expression was significantly reduced, consistent with the decrease in protein. A non-imprinted gene from 15q11-q13, GABRB3, encoding the beta3 subunit of the GABAA receptor, also showed significantly reduced expression in multiple Rett, Angelman and autism brain samples, and Mecp2 deficient mice by quantitative immunoblot. These results suggest an overlapping pathway of gene dysregulation within 15q11-q13 in Rett, Angelman and autism and implicate MeCP2 in the regulation of UBE3A and GABRB3 expressions in the postnatal mammalian brain. [Abstract]

Jamain S, Betancur C, Quach H, Philippe A, Fellous M, Giros B, Gillberg C, Leboyer M, Bourgeron T
Linkage and association of the glutamate receptor 6 gene with autism.
Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(3):302-10.
A genome scan was previously performed and pointed to chromosome 6q21 as a candidate region for autism. This region contains the glutamate receptor 6 (GluR6 or GRIK2) gene, a functional candidate for the syndrome. Glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and is directly involved in cognitive functions such as memory and learning. We used two different approaches, the affected sib-pair (ASP) method and the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT), to investigate the linkage and association between GluR6 and autism. The ASP method, conducted with additional markers on the 51 original families and in eight new sibling pairs, showed a significant excess of allele sharing, generating an elevated multipoint maximum LOD score (ASPEX MLS = 3.28). TDT analysis, performed in the ASP families and in an independent data set of 107 parent-offspring trios, indicated a significant maternal transmission disequilibrium (TDTall P = 0.0004). Furthermore, TDT analysis (with only one affected proband per family) showed significant association between GluR6 and autism (TDT association P = 0.008). In contrast to maternal transmission, paternal transmission of GluR6 alleles was as expected in the absence of linkage, suggesting a maternal effect such as imprinting. Mutation screening was performed in 33 affected individuals, revealing several nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including one amino acid change (M867I) in a highly conserved domain of the intracytoplasmic C-terminal region of the protein. This change is found in 8% of the autistic subjects and in 4% of the control population and seems to be more maternally transmitted than expected to autistic males (P = 0.007). Taken together, these data suggest that GluR6 is in linkage disequilibrium with autism. [Abstract]

Shuang M, Liu J, Jia MX, Yang JZ, Wu SP, Gong XH, Ling YS, Ruan Y, Yang XL, Zhang D
Family-based association study between autism and glutamate receptor 6 gene in Chinese Han trios.
Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2004 Nov 15;131(1):48-50.
The glutamate pathways are involved in diverse processes such as learning and memory, epilepsy, and they play important roles in neural plasticity, neural development, and neurodegeneration. It has been proposed that autism could be a hypoglutamatergic disorder. Recently, Jamain et al. reported that the glutamate receptor 6 (GluR6 or GRIK2) is in linkage disequilibrium with autism. In the present study, the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) and the haplotype transmission were performed to analyze the four SNPs (SNP1: rs995640; SNP2: rs2227281; SNP3: rs2227283; SNP4: rs2235076) of GluR6 in 174 Chinese Han parent-offspring trios. The TDT demonstrated that the two SNPs (SNP2 and SNP3) showed preferential transmission (TDT P = 0.032). The global chi(2) test for haplotype transmission also revealed an association between GluR6 and autism (chi(2) = 10.78, df = 3, P = 0.013). Our results suggested that GluR6 is in linkage disequilibrium with autism. [Abstract]

Ramanathan S, Woodroffe A, Flodman PL, Mays LZ, Hanouni M, Modahl CB, Steinberg-Epstein R, Bocian ME, Spence MA, Smith M
A case of autism with an interstitial deletion on 4q leading to hemizygosity for genes encoding for glutamine and glycine neurotransmitter receptor sub-units (AMPA 2, GLRA3, GLRB) and neuropeptide receptors NPY1R, NPY5R.
BMC Med Genet. 2004 Apr 16;5(1):10.
BACKGROUND: Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by a triad of deficits: qualitative impairments in social interactions, communication deficits, and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Although autism is etiologically heterogeneous, family and twin studies have established a definite genetic basis. The inheritance of idiopathic autism is presumed to be complex, with many genes involved; environmental factors are also possibly contributory. The analysis of chromosome abnormalities associated with autism contributes greatly to the identification of autism candidate genes. CASE PRESENTATION: We describe a child with autistic disorder and an interstitial deletion on chromosome 4q. This child first presented at 12 months of age with developmental delay and minor dysmorphic features. At 4 years of age a diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder was made. At 11 years of age he met diagnostic criteria for autism. Cytogenetic studies revealed a chromosome 4q deletion. The karyotype was 46, XY del 4 (q31.3-q33). Here we report the clinical phenotype of the child and the molecular characterization of the deletion using molecular cytogenetic techniques and analysis of polymorphic markers. These studies revealed a 19 megabase deletion spanning 4q32 to 4q34. Analysis of existing polymorphic markers and new markers developed in this study revealed that the deletion arose on a paternally derived chromosome. To date 33 genes of known or inferred function are deleted as a consequence of the deletion. Among these are the AMPA 2 gene that encodes the glutamate receptor GluR2 sub-unit, GLRA3 and GLRB genes that encode glycine receptor subunits and neuropeptide Y receptor genes NPY1R and NPY5R. CONCLUSIONS: The deletion in this autistic subject serves to highlight specific autism candidate genes. He is hemizygous for AMPA 2, GLRA3, GLRB, NPY1R and NPY5R. GluR2 is the major determinant of AMPA receptor structure. Glutamate receptors maintain structural and functional plasticity of synapses. Neuropeptide Y and its receptors NPY1R and NPY5R play a role in hippocampal learning and memory. Glycine receptors are expressed in very early cortical development. Molecular cytogenetic studies and DNA sequence analysis in other patients with autism will be necessary to confirm that these genes are involved in autism. [Abstract] [Full Text]

Serajee FJ, Zhong H, Nabi R, Huq AH
The metabotropic glutamate receptor 8 gene at 7q31: partial duplication and possible association with autism.
J Med Genet. 2003 Apr;40(4):e42. [Abstract] [Full Text]

Ramoz N, Reichert JG, Smith CJ, Silverman JM, Bespalova IN, Davis KL, Buxbaum JD
Linkage and association of the mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier SLC25A12 gene with autism.
Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Apr;161(4):662-9.
OBJECTIVE: Autism/autistic disorder (MIM number 209850) is a complex, largely genetic psychiatric disorder. The authors recently mapped a susceptibility locus for autism to chromosome region 2q24-q33 (MIM number 606053). In the present study, genes across the 2q24-q33 interval were analyzed to identify an autism susceptibility gene in this region. METHOD: Mutation screening of positional candidate genes was performed in two stages. The first stage involved identifying, in unrelated subjects showing linkage to 2q24-q33, genetic variants in exons and flanking sequence within candidate genes and comparing the frequency of the variants between autistic and unrelated nonautistic subjects. Two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that showed evidence for divergent distribution between autistic and nonautistic subjects were identified, both within SLC25A12, a gene encoding the mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier (AGC1). In the second stage, the two SNPs in SLC25A12 were further genotyped in 411 autistic families, and linkage and association tests were carried out in the 197 informative families. RESULTS: Linkage and association were observed between autistic disorder and the two SNPs, rs2056202 and rs2292813, found in SLC25A12. Using either a single affected subject per family or all affected subjects, evidence for excess transmission was found by the Transmission Disequilibrium Test for rs2056202, rs2292813, and a two-locus G*G haplotype. Similar results were observed using TRANSMIT for the analyses. Evidence for linkage was supported by linkage analysis with the two SNPs, with a maximal multipoint nonparametric linkage score of 1.57 and a maximal multipoint heterogeneity lod score of 2.11. Genotype relative risk could be estimated to be between 2.4 and 4.8 for persons homozygous at these loci. CONCLUSIONS: A strong association of autism with SNPs within the SLC25A12 gene was demonstrated. Further studies are needed to confirm this association and to decipher any potential etiological role of AGC1 in autism. [Abstract]

Barnby G, Abbott A, Sykes N, Morris A, Weeks DE, Mott R, Lamb J, Bailey AJ, Monaco AP
Candidate-Gene Screening and Association Analysis at the Autism-Susceptibility Locus on Chromosome 16p: Evidence of Association at GRIN2A and ABAT.
Am J Hum Genet. 2005 Jun;76(6):950-66.
Autism is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder whose underlying genetic causes have yet to be identified. To date, there have been eight genome screens for autism, two of which identified a putative susceptibility locus on chromosome 16p. In the present study, 10 positional candidate genes that map to 16p11-13 were examined for coding variants: A2BP1, ABAT, BFAR, CREBBP, EMP2, GRIN2A, MRTF-B, SSTR5, TBX6, and UBN1. Screening of all coding and regulatory regions by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography identified seven nonsynonymous changes. Five of these mutations were found to cosegregate with autism, but the mutations are not predicted to have deleterious effects on protein structure and are unlikely to represent significant etiological variants. Selected variants from candidate genes were genotyped in the entire International Molecular Genetics Study of Autism Consortium collection of 239 multiplex families and were tested for association with autism by use of the pedigree disequilibrium test. Additionally, genotype frequencies were compared between 239 unrelated affected individuals and 192 controls. Patterns of linkage disequilibrium were investigated, and the transmission of haplotypes across candidate genes was tested for association. Evidence of single-marker association was found for variants in ABAT, CREBBP, and GRIN2A. Within these genes, 12 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were subsequently genotyped in 91 autism trios (one affected individual and two unaffected parents), and the association was replicated within GRIN2A (Fisher's exact test, P<.0001). Logistic regression analysis of SNP data across GRIN2A and ABAT showed a trend toward haplotypic differences between cases and controls. [Abstract]

Blatt GJ, Fitzgerald CM, Guptill JT, Booker AB, Kemper TL, Bauman ML
Density and distribution of hippocampal neurotransmitter receptors in autism: an autoradiographic study.
J Autism Dev Disord. 2001 Dec;31(6):537-43.
Neuropathological studies in autistic brains have shown small neuronal size and increased cell packing density in a variety of limbic system structures including the hippocampus, a change consistent with curtailment of normal development. Based on these observations in the hippocampus, a series of quantitative receptor autoradiographic studies were undertaken to determine the density and distribution of eight types of neurotransmitter receptors from four neurotransmitter systems (GABAergic, serotoninergic [5-HT], cholinergic, and glutamatergic). Data from these single concentration ligand binding studies indicate that the GABAergic receptor system (3[H]-flunitrazepam labeled benzodiazepine binding sites and 3[H]-muscimol labeled GABA(A) receptors) is significantly reduced in high binding regions, marking for the first time an abnormality in the GABA system in autism. In contrast, the density and distribution of the other six receptors studied (3[H]-80H-DPAT labeled 5-HT1A receptors, 3[H]-ketanserin labeled 5-HT2 receptors, 3[H]-pirenzepine labled M1 receptors, 3[H]-hemicholinium labeled high affinity choline uptake sites, 3[H]-MK801 labeled NMDA receptors, and 3[H]-kainate labeled kainate receptors) in the hippocampus did not demonstrate any statistically significant differences in binding. [Abstract]

Cline H.
Synaptogenesis: a balancing act between excitation and inhibition.
Curr Biol. 2005 Mar 29;15(6):R203-5.
Recent studies have implicated a number of membrane-associated proteins, including the signaling pair neuroligin and beta-neurexin, in synapse formation, suggesting that they govern the ratio of inhibitory and excitatory synapses on CNS neurons. These findings, together with data indicating that the genes encoding neuroligin and PSD95 are altered in autism patients, suggest that a molecular understanding of complex neurological diseases is within reach. [Abstract]

Laumonnier F, Bonnet-Brilhault F, Gomot M, Blanc R, David A, Moizard MP, Raynaud M, Ronce N, Lemonnier E, Calvas P, Laudier B, Chelly J, Fryns JP, Ropers HH, Hamel BC, Andres C, Barthélémy C, Moraine C, Briault S
X-linked mental retardation and autism are associated with a mutation in the NLGN4 gene, a member of the neuroligin family.
Am J Hum Genet. 2004 Mar;74(3):552-7.
A large French family including members affected by nonspecific X-linked mental retardation, with or without autism or pervasive developmental disorder in affected male patients, has been found to have a 2-base-pair deletion in the Neuroligin 4 gene (NLGN4) located at Xp22.33. This mutation leads to a premature stop codon in the middle of the sequence of the normal protein and is thought to suppress the transmembrane domain and sequences important for the dimerization of neuroligins that are required for proper cell-cell interaction through binding to beta-neurexins. As the neuroligins are mostly enriched at excitatory synapses, these results suggest that a defect in synaptogenesis may lead to deficits in cognitive development and communication processes. The fact that the deletion was present in both autistic and nonautistic mentally retarded males suggests that the NLGN4 gene is not only involved in autism, as previously described, but also in mental retardation, indicating that some types of autistic disorder and mental retardation may have common genetic origins. [Abstract] [Full Text]

Jamain S, Quach H, Betancur C, Råstam M, Colineaux C, Gillberg IC, Soderstrom H, Giros B, Leboyer M, Gillberg C, Bourgeron T
Mutations of the X-linked genes encoding neuroligins NLGN3 and NLGN4 are associated with autism.
Nat Genet. 2003 May;34(1):27-9.
Many studies have supported a genetic etiology for autism. Here we report mutations in two X-linked genes encoding neuroligins NLGN3 and NLGN4 in siblings with autism-spectrum disorders. These mutations affect cell-adhesion molecules localized at the synapse and suggest that a defect of synaptogenesis may predispose to autism. [Abstract]

Yan J, Oliveira G, Coutinho A, Yang C, Feng J, Katz C, Sram J, Bockholt A, Jones IR, Craddock N, Cook EH, Vicente A, Sommer SS
Analysis of the neuroligin 3 and 4 genes in autism and other neuropsychiatric patients.
Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Dec 28; [Abstract]

Talebizadeh Z, Bittel DC, Veatch OJ, Butler MG, Takahashi TN, Miles JH
Do known mutations in neuroligin genes (NLGN3 and NLGN4) cause autism?
J Autism Dev Disord. 2004 Dec;34(6):735-6. [Abstract]

Vincent JB, Kolozsvari D, Roberts WS, Bolton PF, Gurling HM, Scherer SW
Mutation screening of X-chromosomal neuroligin genes: no mutations in 196 autism probands.
Am J Med Genet. 2004 Aug 15;129B(1):82-4.
Autism, a childhood neuropsychiatric disorder with a strong genetic component, is currently the focus of considerable attention within the field of human genetics as well many other medical-related disciplines. A recent study has implicated two X-chromosomal neuroligin genes, NLGN3 and NLGN4, as having an etiological role in autism, having identified a frameshift mutation in one gene and a substitution mutation in the other, segregating in multiplex autism spectrum families (Jamain et al. [2003: Nat Genet 34:27-29]). The function of neuroligin as a trigger for synapse formation would suggest that such mutations would likely result in some form of pathological manifestation. Our own study, screening a larger sample of 196 autism probands, failed to identify any mutations that would affect the coding regions of these genes. Our findings suggest that mutations in these two genes are infrequent in autism. [Abstract]

Gauthier J, Bonnel A, St-Onge J, Karemera L, Laurent S, Mottron L, Fombonne E, Joober R, Rouleau GA
NLGN3/NLGN4 gene mutations are not responsible for autism in the Quebec population.
Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2005 Jan 5;132(1):74-5.
Jamain [2003: Nat Genet 34:27-29] recently reported mutations in two neuroligin genes in sib-pairs affected with autism. In order to confirm these causative mutations in our autistic population and to determine their frequency we screened 96 individuals affected with autism. We found no mutations in these X-linked genes. These results indicate that mutations in NLGN3 and NLGN4 genes are responsible for at most a small fraction of autism cases and additional screenings in other autistic populations are needed to better determine the frequency with which mutations in NLGN3 and NLGN4 occur in autism. [Abstract]

Weiss LA, Escayg A, Kearney JA, Trudeau M, MacDonald BT, Mori M, Reichert J, Buxbaum JD, Meisler MH
Sodium channels SCN1A, SCN2A and SCN3A in familial autism.
Mol Psychiatry. 2003 Feb;8(2):186-94.
Autism is a psychiatric disorder with estimated heritability of 90%. One-third of autistic individuals experience seizures. A susceptibility locus for autism was mapped near a cluster of voltage-gated sodium channel genes on chromosome 2. Mutations in two of these genes, SCN1A and SCN2A, result in the seizure disorder GEFS+. To evaluate these sodium channel genes as candidates for the autism susceptibility locus, we screened for variation in coding exons and splice sites in 117 multiplex autism families. A total of 27 kb of coding sequence and 3 kb of intron sequence were screened. Only six families carried variants with potential effects on sodium channel function. Five coding variants and one lariat branchpoint mutation were each observed in a single family, but were not present in controls. The variant R1902C in SCN2A is located in the calmodulin binding site and was found to reduce binding affinity for calcium-bound calmodulin. R542Q in SCN1A was observed in one autism family and had previously been identified in a patient with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. The effect of the lariat branchpoint mutation was tested in cultured lymphoblasts. Additional population studies and functional tests will be required to evaluate pathogenicity of the coding and lariat site variants. SNP density was 1/kb in the genomic sequence screened. We report 38 sodium channel SNPs that will be useful in future association and linkage studies. [Abstract]

Splawski I, Timothy KW, Sharpe LM, Decher N, Kumar P, Bloise R, Napolitano C, Schwartz PJ, Joseph RM, Condouris K, Tager-Flusberg H, Priori SG, Sanguinetti MC, Keating MT
Ca(V)1.2 calcium channel dysfunction causes a multisystem disorder including arrhythmia and autism.
Cell. 2004 Oct 1;119(1):19-31.
Ca(V)1.2, the cardiac L-type calcium channel, is important for excitation and contraction of the heart. Its role in other tissues is unclear. Here we present Timothy syndrome, a novel disorder characterized by multiorgan dysfunction including lethal arrhythmias, webbing of fingers and toes, congenital heart disease, immune deficiency, intermittent hypoglycemia, cognitive abnormalities, and autism. In every case, Timothy syndrome results from the identical, de novo Ca(V)1.2 missense mutation G406R. Ca(V)1.2 is expressed in all affected tissues. Functional expression reveals that G406R produces maintained inward Ca(2+) currents by causing nearly complete loss of voltage-dependent channel inactivation. This likely induces intracellular Ca(2+) overload in multiple cell types. In the heart, prolonged Ca(2+) current delays cardiomyocyte repolarization and increases risk of arrhythmia, the ultimate cause of death in this disorder. These discoveries establish the importance of Ca(V)1.2 in human physiology and development and implicate Ca(2+) signaling in autism. [Abstract]

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Recent Autism Research Related to Excitation, Inhibition, or Synchrony

1) Bejjani A, O'Neill J, Kim JA, Frew AJ, Yee VW, Ly R, Kitchen C, Salamon N, McCracken JT, Toga AW, Alger JR, Levitt JG
Elevated Glutamatergic Compounds in Pregenual Anterior Cingulate in Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder Demonstrated by( 1)H MRS and (1)H MRSI.
PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e38786.
Recent research in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has aroused interest in anterior cingulate cortex and in the neurometabolite glutamate. We report two studies of pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) in pediatric ASD. First, we acquired in vivo single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H MRS) in 8 children with ASD and 10 typically developing controls who were well matched for age, but with fewer males and higher IQ. In the ASD group in midline pACC, we found mean 17.7% elevation of glutamate + glutamine (Glx) (p<0.05) and 21.2% (p<0.001) decrement in creatine + phosphocreatine (Cr). We then performed a larger (26 subjects with ASD, 16 controls) follow-up study in samples now matched for age, gender, and IQ using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging ((1)H MRSI). Higher spatial resolution enabled bilateral pACC acquisition. Significant effects were restricted to right pACC where Glx (9.5%, p<0.05), Cr (6.7%, p<0.05), and N-acetyl-aspartate + N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (10.2%, p<0.01) in the ASD sample were elevated above control. These two independent studies suggest hyperglutamatergia and other neurometabolic abnormalities in pACC in ASD, with possible right-lateralization. The hyperglutamatergic state may reflect an imbalance of excitation over inhibition in the brain as proposed in recent neurodevelopmental models of ASD. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

2) Go HS, Chan Kim K, Choi CS, Jeon SJ, Kwon KJ, Han SH, Lee J, Cheong JH, Ryu JH, Kim CH, Ko KH, Shin CY
Prenatal exposure to valproic acid increases the neural progenitor cell pool and induces macrocephaly in rat brain via a mechanism involving the GSK-3β/β-catenin pathway.
Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jul 26;
Autism is a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social isolation and lack of interaction. Anatomically, autism patients often show macrocephaly and high neuronal density. To investigate the mechanism underlying the higher neuronal populations seen in ASD, we subcutaneously injected VPA (400 mg/kg) into pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats on E12, an animal model often used in ASD study. Alternatively, cultured rat neural progenitor cells were treated with VPA. Until E18, VPA induced NPC proliferation and delayed neurogenesis in fetal brain, but the subsequent differentiation of NPCs to neurons increased brain neuronal density afterwards. Similar findings were observed with NPCs treated with VPA in vitro. At a molecular level, VPA enhanced Wnt1 expression and activated the GSK-3?/?-catenin pathway. Furthermore, inhibition of this pathway attenuated the effects of VPA. The findings of this study suggest that an altered developmental process underlies the macrocephaly and abnormal brain structure observed in the autistic brain. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

3) Hagenmuller F, Rössler W, Endrass J, Rossegger A, Haker H
[Impaired resonance in offenders with psychopathic traits].
Neuropsychiatr. 2012;26(2):65-71.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

4) Brielmaier J, Matteson PG, Silverman JL, Senerth JM, Kelly S, Genestine M, Millonig JH, Dicicco-Bloom E, Crawley JN
Autism-relevant social abnormalities and cognitive deficits in engrailed-2 knockout mice.
PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40914.
ENGRAILED 2 (En2), a homeobox transcription factor, functions as a patterning gene in the early development and connectivity of rodent hindbrain and cerebellum, and regulates neurogenesis and development of monoaminergic pathways. To further understand the neurobiological functions of En2, we conducted neuroanatomical expression profiling of En2 wildtype mice. RTQPCR assays demonstrated that En2 is expressed in adult brain structures including the somatosensory cortex, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus and brainstem. Human genetic studies indicate that EN2 is associated with autism. To determine the consequences of En2 mutations on mouse behaviors, including outcomes potentially relevant to autism, we conducted comprehensive phenotyping of social, communication, repetitive, and cognitive behaviors. En2 null mutants exhibited robust deficits in reciprocal social interactions as juveniles and adults, and absence of sociability in adults, replicated in two independent cohorts. Fear conditioning and water maze learning were impaired in En2 null mutants. High immobility in the forced swim test, reduced prepulse inhibition, mild motor coordination impairments and reduced grip strength were detected in En2 null mutants. No genotype differences were found on measures of ultrasonic vocalizations in social contexts, and no stereotyped or repetitive behaviors were observed. Developmental milestones, general health, olfactory abilities, exploratory locomotor activity, anxiety-like behaviors and pain responses did not differ across genotypes, indicating that the behavioral abnormalities detected in En2 null mutants were not attributable to physical or procedural confounds. Our findings provide new insight into the role of En2 in complex behaviors and suggest that disturbances in En2 signaling may contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders marked by social and cognitive deficits, including autism spectrum disorders. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

5) Latapy C, Rioux V, Guitton MJ, Beaulieu JM
Selective deletion of forebrain glycogen synthase kinase 3β reveals a central role in serotonin-sensitive anxiety and social behaviour.
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Sep 5;367(1601):2460-74.
Serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission is thought to underlie mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, depression, autism and schizophrenia. Independent studies have indicated that 5-HT or drugs acting on 5-HT neurotransmission regulate the serine/threonine kinase glycogen synthase kinase 3? (GSK3?). Furthermore, GSK3? inhibition rescues behavioural abnormalities in 5-HT-deficient mice with a loss-of-function mutation equivalent to the human variant (R441H) of tryptophan hydroxylase 2. In an effort to define neuroanatomical correlates of GSK3? activity in the regulation of behaviour, we generated CamKIIcre-floxGSK3? mice in which the gsk3b gene is postnatally inactivated in forebrain pyramidal neurons. Behavioural characterization showed that suppression of GSK3? in these brain areas has anxiolytic and pro-social effects. However, while a global reduction of GSK2? expression reduced responsiveness to amphetamine and increased resilience to social defeat, these behavioural effects were not found in CamKIIcre-floxGSK3? mice. These findings demonstrate a dissociation of behavioural effects related to GSK3 inhibition, with forebrain GSK3? being involved in the regulation of anxiety and sociability while social preference, resilience and responsiveness to psychostimulants would involve a function of this kinase in subcortical areas such as the hippocampus and striatum. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

6) Collignon O, Charbonneau G, Peters F, Nassim M, Lassonde M, Lepore F, Mottron L, Bertone A
Reduced multisensory facilitation in persons with autism.
Cortex. 2012 Jun 20;
Although the literature concerning auditory and visual perceptual capabilities in the autism spectrum is growing, our understanding of multisensory integration (MSI) is rather limited. In the present study, we assessed MSI in autism by measuring whether participants benefited from an auditory cue presented in synchrony with the color change of a target during a complex visual search task. The synchronous auditory pip typically increases search efficacy (pip and pop effect), indicative of the beneficial use of sensory input from both modalities. We found that for conditions without auditory information, autistic participants were better at visual search compared to neurotypical participants. Importantly, search efficiency was increased by the presence of auditory pip for neurotypical participants only. The simultaneous occurrence of superior unimodal performance with altered audio-visual integration in autism suggests autonomous sensory processing in this population. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

7) Jeon SJ, Han SH, Yang SI, Choi JW, Kwon KJ, Park SH, Kim HY, Cheong JH, Ryu JH, Ko KH, Wells DG, Shin CY
Positive feedback regulation of Akt-FMRP pathway protects neurons from cell death.
J Neurochem. 2012 Jul 21;
Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common single genetic cause of mental retardation and autistic spectrum disease, occurs when FMR1 gene is mutated. FMR1 encodes fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) which regulates translation of mRNAs playing important roles in the development of neurons as well as formation and maintenance of synapses. To examine whether FMRP regulates cell viability, we induced apoptosis in rat primary cortical neurons with glutamate in vitro and with middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in striatal neurons in vivo. Both conditions elicited a rapid but transient FMRP expression in neurons. This up-regulated FMRP expression was abolished by pre-treatment of PI3K and Akt inhibitors: LY294002, Akt inhibitor IV, and VIII. Reduced FMRP expression in vitro or in vivo using small hairpin Fmr1 virus exacerbated cell death by glutamate or MCAO, presumably via hypo-phosphorylation of Akt and reduced expression of Bcl-xL. However, over-expression of FMRP using eGFP-FMRP constructs alleviated cell death, increased Akt activity and enhanced Bcl-xL production. The pro-survival role of Akt dependent up-regulation of FMRP in glutamate-stimulated cultured neuron as well as in ischemic brain may have a clinical importance in FXS as well as in neurodegenerative disorders and traumatic brain injury. © 2012 The Authors Journal of Neurochemistry © 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

8) Kern JK, Geier DA, Audhya T, King PG, Sykes LK, Geier MR
Evidence of parallels between mercury intoxication and the brain pathology in autism.
Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2012;72(2):113-53.
The purpose of this review is to examine the parallels between the effects mercury intoxication on the brain and the brain pathology found in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This review finds evidence of many parallels between the two, including: (1) microtubule degeneration, specifically large, long-range axon degeneration with subsequent abortive axonal sprouting (short, thin axons); (2) dentritic overgrowth; (3) neuroinflammation; (4) microglial/astrocytic activation; (5) brain immune response activation; (6) elevated glial fibrillary acidic protein; (7) oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation; (8) decreased reduced glutathione levels and elevated oxidized glutathione; (9) mitochondrial dysfunction; (10) disruption in calcium homeostasis and signaling; (11) inhibition of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) activity; (12) disruption of GABAergic and glutamatergic homeostasis; (13) inhibition of IGF-1 and methionine synthase activity; (14) impairment in methylation; (15) vascular endothelial cell dysfunction and pathological changes of the blood vessels; (16) decreased cerebral/cerebellar blood flow; (17) increased amyloid precursor protein; (18) loss of granule and Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum; (19) increased pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in the brain (TNF-alppha, IFN-gamma, IL-1beta, IL-8); and (20) aberrant nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-kappaB). This review also discusses the ability of mercury to potentiate and work synergistically with other toxins and pathogens in a way that may contribute to the brain pathology in ASD. The evidence suggests that mercury may be either causal or contributory in the brain pathology in ASD, possibly working synergistically with other toxic compounds or pathogens to produce the brain pathology observed in those diagnosed with an ASD. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

9) Gandal MJ, Sisti J, Klook K, Ortinski PI, Leitman V, Liang Y, Thieu T, Anderson R, Pierce RC, Jonak G, Gur RE, Carlson G, Siegel SJ
GABA(B)-mediated rescue of altered excitatory-inhibitory balance, gamma synchrony and behavioral deficits following constitutive NMDAR-hypofunction.
Transl Psychiatry. 2012;2:e142.
Reduced N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptor (NMDAR) signaling has been associated with schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disability. NMDAR-hypofunction is thought to contribute to social, cognitive and gamma (30-80?Hz) oscillatory abnormalities, phenotypes common to these disorders. However, circuit-level mechanisms underlying such deficits remain unclear. This study investigated the relationship between gamma synchrony, excitatory-inhibitory (E/I) signaling, and behavioral phenotypes in NMDA-NR1(neo-/-) mice, which have constitutively reduced expression of the obligate NR1 subunit to model disrupted developmental NMDAR function. Constitutive NMDAR-hypofunction caused a loss of E/I balance, with an increase in intrinsic pyramidal cell excitability and a selective disruption of parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. Disrupted E/I coupling was associated with deficits in auditory-evoked gamma signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Gamma-band abnormalities predicted deficits in spatial working memory and social preference, linking cellular changes in E/I signaling to target behaviors. The GABA(B)-receptor agonist baclofen improved E/I balance, gamma-SNR and broadly reversed behavioral deficits. These data demonstrate a clinically relevant, highly translatable neural-activity-based biomarker for preclinical screening and therapeutic development across a broad range of disorders that share common endophenotypes and disrupted NMDA-receptor signaling. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

10) Ecker C, Spooren W, Murphy DG
Translational approaches to the biology of Autism: false dawn or a new era?
Mol Psychiatry. 2012 Jul 17;
Discovering novel treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a challenge. Its etiology and pathology remain largely unknown, the condition shows wide clinical diversity, and case identification is still solely based on symptomatology. Hence clinical trials typically include samples of biologically and clinically heterogeneous individuals. 'Core deficits', that is, deficits common to all individuals with ASD, are thus inherently difficult to find. Nevertheless, recent reports suggest that new opportunities are emerging, which may help develop new treatments and biomarkers for the condition. Most important, several risk gene variants have now been identified that significantly contribute to ASD susceptibility, many linked to synaptic functioning, excitation-inhibition balance, and brain connectivity. Second, neuroimaging studies have advanced our understanding of the 'wider' neural systems underlying ASD; and significantly contributed to our knowledge of the complex neurobiology associated with the condition. Last, the recent development of powerful multivariate analytical techniques now enable us to use multi-modal information in order to develop complex 'biomarker systems', which may in the future be used to assist the behavioral diagnosis, aid patient stratification and predict response to treatment/intervention. The aim of this review is, therefore, to summarize some of these important new findings and highlight their potential significant translational value to the future of ASD research.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 17 July 2012; doi:10.1038/mp.2012.102. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

11) Silverman JL, Oliver CF, Karras MN, Gastrell PT, Crawley JN
AMPAKINE enhancement of social interaction in the BTBR mouse model of autism.
Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jul 16;
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the first diagnostic symptom is unusual reciprocal social interactions. Approximately half of the children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder also have intellectual impairments. General cognitive abilities may be fundamental to many aspects of social cognition. Cognitive enhancers could conceivably be of significant benefit to children and adults with autism. AMPAKINE compounds are a novel class of pharmacological agents that act as positive modulators of AMPA receptors to enhance excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission. This class of compounds was reported to improve learning and memory in several rodent and non-human primate tasks, and to normalize respiratory abnormalities in a mouse model of Rett syndrome. Here we evaluate the actions of AMPA compounds in adult male and female BTBR mice, a well characterized mouse model of autism. Acute treatment with CX1837 and CX1739 reversed the deficit in sociability in BTBR mice on the most sensitive parameter, time spent sniffing a novel mouse as compared to time spent sniffing a novel object. The less sensitive parameter, time in the chamber containing the novel mouse versus time in the chamber containing the novel object, was not rescued by CX1837 or CX1739 treatment. Preliminary data with CX546, in which ?-cyclodextrin was the vehicle, revealed behavioral effects of the acute intraperitoneal and oral administration of vehicle alone. To circumvent the artifacts introduced by the vehicle administration, we employed a novel treatment regimen using pellets of peanut butter for drug delivery. Absence of vehicle treatment effects when CX1837 and CX1739 were given in the peanut butter pellets, to multiple cohorts of BTBR and B6 control mice, confirmed that the pharmacologically-induced improvements in sociability in BTBR were not confounded by the administration procedures. The highest dose of CX1837 improved the cognitive deficit in novel object recognition in BTBR. No drug effects were detected on the high levels of repetitive self-grooming in BTBR. In open field tests, CX1837 and CX1739 did not induce hyperactivity or sedation in either strain. It is interesting to speculate that the ability of CX1837 and CX1739 to restore aspects of sociability in BTBR mice could utilize synaptic mechanisms regulating social cognition, suggesting a potential pharmacological target for interventions to treat symptoms of autism. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

12) Fakira AK, Gaspers LD, Thomas AP, Li H, Jain MR, Elkabes S
Purkinje cell dysfunction and delayed death in plasma membrane calcium ATPase 2-heterozygous mice.
Mol Cell Neurosci. 2012 Jul 10;
Purkinje cell (PC) dysfunction or death has been implicated in a number of disorders including ataxia, autism and multiple sclerosis. Plasma membrane calcium ATPase 2 (PMCA2), an important calcium (Ca(2+)) extrusion pump that interacts with synaptic signaling complexes, is most abundantly expressed in PCs compared to other neurons. Using the PMCA2 heterozygous mouse as a model, we investigated whether a reduction in PMCA2 levels affects PC function. We focused on Ca(2+) signaling and the expression of glutamate receptors which play a key role in PC function including synaptic plasticity. We found that the amplitude of depolarization and 2-amino-3-(5-methyl-3-oxo-1,2-oxazol-4-yl)propanoic acid receptor (AMPAR)-mediated Ca(2+) transients are significantly higher in cultured PMCA2(+/-) PCs than in PMCA2(+/+) PCs. This is due to increased Ca(2+) influx, since P/Q type voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel (VGCC) expression was more pronounced in PCs and cerebella of PMCA2(+/-) mice and VGCC blockade prevented the elevation in amplitude. Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) activity was higher in PMCA2(+/-) cerebella and inhibition of nNOS or the soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC)-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway, which mediates nitric oxide (NO) signaling, reduced the amplitude of Ca(2+) transients in PMCA2(+/-) PCs, in vitro. In addition, there was an age-dependent decrease in metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (mGluR1) and AMPA receptor subunit GluR2/3 transcript and protein levels at 8weeks of age. These changes were followed by PC loss in the 20-week-old PMCA2(+/-) mice. Our studies highlight the importance of PMCA2 in Ca(2+) signaling, glutamate receptor expression and survival of Purkinje cells. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

13) Asadabadi M, Mohammadi MR, Ghanizadeh A, Modabbernia A, Ashrafi M, Hassanzadeh E, Forghani S, Akhondzadeh S
Celecoxib as adjunctive treatment to risperidone in children with autistic disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Jul 11;
RATIONAL: Autism is associated with activation of the inflammatory response system. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to assess the efficacy of a cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor, celecoxib, as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of autism METHODS: In a 10-week randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study, 40 outpatient children with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision clinical diagnosis of autism were randomly allocated to celecoxib plus risperidone or placebo plus risperidone. The dose of risperidone and celecoxib were titrated up to 3 and 300 mg/day, respectively. Patients were assessed at baseline and after 2, 4, 6, and 10 weeks of starting medication using the Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Community (ABC-C) Rating Scale. Primary outcome measure was the change in irritability subscale of ABC-C. RESULTS: Significant time?×?treatment interaction was observed for Irritability (F (1.658, 63.021)?=?13.580, P?[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

14) Tsai PT, Hull C, Chu Y, Greene-Colozzi E, Sadowski AR, Leech JM, Steinberg J, Crawley JN, Regehr WG, Sahin M
Autistic-like behaviour and cerebellar dysfunction in Purkinje cell Tsc1 mutant mice.
Nature. 2012 Jul 1;
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders, but the underlying pathogenesis remains poorly understood. Recent studies have implicated the cerebellum in these disorders, with post-mortem studies in ASD patients showing cerebellar Purkinje cell (PC) loss, and isolated cerebellar injury has been associated with a higher incidence of ASDs. However, the extent of cerebellar contribution to the pathogenesis of ASDs remains unclear. Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder with high rates of comorbid ASDs that result from mutation of either TSC1 or TSC2, whose protein products dimerize and negatively regulate mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signalling. TSC is an intriguing model to investigate the cerebellar contribution to the underlying pathogenesis of ASDs, as recent studies in TSC patients demonstrate cerebellar pathology and correlate cerebellar pathology with increased ASD symptomatology. Functional imaging also shows that TSC patients with ASDs display hypermetabolism in deep cerebellar structures, compared to TSC patients without ASDs. However, the roles of Tsc1 and the sequelae of Tsc1 dysfunction in the cerebellum have not been investigated so far. Here we show that both heterozygous and homozygous loss of Tsc1 in mouse cerebellar PCs results in autistic-like behaviours, including abnormal social interaction, repetitive behaviour and vocalizations, in addition to decreased PC excitability. Treatment of mutant mice with the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, prevented the pathological and behavioural deficits. These findings demonstrate new roles for Tsc1 in PC function and define a molecular basis for a cerebellar contribution to cognitive disorders such as autism. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

15) Löw H, Crane FL, Morré DJ
Putting together a plasma membrane NADH oxidase: A tale of three laboratories.
Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2012 Jun 29;
The observation that high cellular concentrations of NADH were associated with low adenylate cyclase activity led to a search for the mechanism of the effect. Since cyclase is in the plasma membrane, we considered the membrane might have a site for NADH action, and that NADH might be oxidized at that site. A test for NADH oxidase showed very low activity, which could be increased by adding growth factors. The plasma membrane oxidase was not inhibited by inhibitors of mitochondrial NADH oxidase such as cyanide, rotenone or antimycin. Stimulation of the plasma membrane oxidase by iso-proterenol or triiodothyronine was different from lack of stimulation in endoplasmic reticulum. After 25 years of research, three components of a trans membrane NADH oxidase have been discovered. Flavoprotein NADH coenzyme Q reductases (NADH cytochrome b reductase) on the inside, coenzyme Q in the middle, and a coenzyme Q oxidase on the outside as a terminal oxidase. The external oxidase segment is a copper protein with unique properties in timekeeping, protein disulfide isomerase and endogenous NADH oxidase activity, which affords a mechanism for control of cell growth by the overall NADH oxidase and the remarkable inhibition of oxidase activity and growth of cancer cells by a wide range of anti-tumor drugs. A second trans plasma membrane electron transport system has been found in voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC), which has NADH ferricyanide reductase activity. This activity must be considered in relation to ferricyanide stimulation of growth and increased VDAC antibodies in patients with autism. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

16) Uchino S, Waga C
SHANK3 as an autism spectrum disorder-associated gene.
Brain Dev. 2012 Jun 29;
SHANK3 is a synaptic scaffolding protein enriched in the postsynaptic density of excitatory synapses, and plays important roles in the formation, maturation, and maintenance of synapses. Haploinsufficiency of the SHANK3 gene causes a developmental disorder, 22q13.3 deletion syndrome (known as Phelan-McDermid syndrome), that is characterized by severe expressive language and speech delay, hypotonia, global developmental delay, and autistic behavior. Since several SHANK3 mutations have been identified in a particular phenotypic group in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the SHANK3 is strongly suspected of being involved in the pathogenesis and neuropathology of ASD. Five CpG-islands have been identified in the SHANK3 gene, and tissue-specific expression of SHANK3 is regulated by DNA methylation in an epigenetic manner. Cumulative evidence has shown that several SHANK3 variants are expressed in the developing rodent brain and that their expression is regulated by DNA methylation of intragenic promoters. We identified novel SHANK3 transcripts whose transcription started at the vicinity of the CpG-island 2 in the mouse brain. Shank3 mutant mice exhibit autistic-like behaviors, including impaired social interaction and repetitive behaviors. In this article we review recent findings in regard to higher brain functions of SHANK3, epigenetic regulation of SHANK3 expression, and SHANK3-related ASD that were obtained from genetic analyses in ASD patients, molecular biological studies using developing mouse brains, and studies of Shank3 mutant mice. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

17) Srivastava DP, Woolfrey KM, Jones KA, Anderson CT, Smith KR, Russell TA, Lee H, Yasvoina MV, Wokosin DL, Ozdinler PH, Shepherd GM, Penzes P
An autism-associated variant of epac2 reveals a role for ras/epac2 signaling in controlling Basal dendrite maintenance in mice.
PLoS Biol. 2012 Jun;10(6):e1001350.
The architecture of dendritic arbors determines circuit connectivity, receptive fields, and computational properties of neurons, and dendritic structure is impaired in several psychiatric disorders. While apical and basal dendritic compartments of pyramidal neurons are functionally specialized and differentially regulated, little is known about mechanisms that selectively maintain basal dendrites. Here we identified a role for the Ras/Epac2 pathway in maintaining basal dendrite complexity of cortical neurons. Epac2 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for the Ras-like small GTPase Rap, and it is highly enriched in the adult mouse brain. We found that in vivo Epac2 knockdown in layer 2/3 cortical neurons via in utero electroporation reduced basal dendritic architecture, and that Epac2 knockdown in mature cortical neurons in vitro mimicked this effect. Overexpression of an Epac2 rare coding variant, found in human subjects diagnosed with autism, also impaired basal dendritic morphology. This mutation disrupted Epac2's interaction with Ras, and inhibition of Ras selectively interfered with basal dendrite maintenance. Finally, we observed that components of the Ras/Epac2/Rap pathway exhibited differential abundance in the basal versus apical dendritic compartments. These findings define a role for Epac2 in enabling crosstalk between Ras and Rap signaling in maintaining basal dendrite complexity, and exemplify how rare coding variants, in addition to their disease relevance, can provide insight into cellular mechanisms relevant for brain connectivity. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

18) Weltzin MM, Huang Y, Schulte MK
Allosteric modulation of alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by HEPES.
Eur J Pharmacol. 2012 Jun 23;
A number of new positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) have been reported that enhance responses of neuronal alpha7 and alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes to orthosteric ligands. PAMs represent promising new leads for the development of therapeutic agents for disorders involving alterations in nicotinic neurotransmission including Autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. During our recent studies of alpha4beta2 PAMs, we identified a novel effect of 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethanesulfonic acid (HEPES). The effects of HEPES were evaluated in a phosphate buffered recording solution using two-electrode voltage clamp techniques and alpha4beta2 and alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Acetylcholine induced responses of high-sensitivity alpha4beta2 receptors were potentiated 190% by co-exposure to HEPES. Responses were inhibited at higher concentrations (bell-shaped concentration/response curve). Coincidentally, at concentrations of HEPES typically used in oocyte recording (5-10mM), the potentiating effects of HEPES are matched by its inhibitory effects, thus producing no net effect. Mutagenesis results suggest HEPES potentiates the high-sensitivity stoichiometry of the alpha4beta2 receptors through action at the beta2+/beta2- interface and is dependent on residue beta2D218. HEPES did not potentiate low-sensitivity alpha4beta2 receptors and did not produce any observable effect on acetylcholine induced responses on alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

19) Salcedo-Marin MD, Moreno-Granados JM, Ruiz-Veguilla M, Ferrin M
Evaluation of Planning Dysfunction in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorders Using the Zoo Map Task.
Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2012 Jun 24;
Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorders (ADHD) and Autistic-Spectrum-Disorders (ASD) share overlapping clinical and cognitive features that may confuse the diagnosis. Evaluation of executive problems and planning dysfunction may aid the clinical diagnostic process and help disentangle the neurobiological process underlying these conditions. This study evaluates the planning function problems in 80 male children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD and 23 male children and adolescents with ASD using the Zoo Map Task; both groups were comparable in terms of age and IQ. The relationship between planning function and other executive functions is also assessed. In comparison to the ADHD groups, ASD children presented more errors in the open-ended tasks; these planning function problems seem to be mediated by processing speed and motor coordination, however it does not seem to be mediated by other executive function problems, including attention, working memory or response inhibition. In the time for planning, an interaction between the specific subgroups and working memory components was observed. ADHD and ASD present with different patterns of planning function, even when other components of executive function are taken into account; clinical and educational implications are discussed. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

20) Enticott PG, Kennedy HA, Rinehart NJ, Tonge BJ, Bradshaw JL, Fitzgerald PB
GABAergic activity in autism spectrum disorders: An investigation of cortical inhibition via transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun 19;
Mounting evidence suggests a possible role for ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the neuropathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the extent of this impairment is unclear. A non-invasive, in vivo measure of GABA involves transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the primary motor cortex to probe cortical inhibition. Individuals diagnosed with ASD (high-functioning autism or Asperger's disorder) (n = 36 [28 male]; mean age: 26.00 years) and a group of healthy individuals (n = 34 [23 male]; mean age: 26.21 years) (matched for age, gender, and cognitive function) were administered motor cortical TMS paradigms putatively measuring activity at GABA(A) and GABA(B) receptors (i.e., short and long interval paired pulse TMS, cortical silent period). All cortical inhibition paradigms yielded no difference between ASD and control groups. There was, however, evidence for short interval cortical inhibition (SICI) deficits among those ASD participants who had experienced early language delay, suggesting that GABA may be implicated in an ASD subtype. The current findings do not support a broad role for GABA in the neuropathophysiology of ASD, but provide further indication that GABA(A) could be involved in ASD where there is a delay in language acquisition. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Neurodevelopment Disorder'. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]