Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability and autism, caused by a CGG expansion to greater than 200 repeats in the promoter region of FMR1 on the bottom of the X chromosome. A subgroup of individuals with FXS experience hyperphagia, lack of satiation after meals and severe obesity, this subgroup is referred to have the Prader-Willi phenotype of FXS. Prader-Willi syndrome is one of the most common genetic severe obesity disorders known and it is caused by the lack of the paternal 15q11–13 region. Affected individuals suffer from hyperphagia, lack of satiation, intellectual disability, and behavioral problems. Children with fragile X syndrome Prader-Willi phenotye and those with Prader Willi syndrome have clinical and molecular similarities reviewed here which will impact new treatment options for both disorders.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS); Prader-Willi phenotype; FMR1 gene; Hyperphagia; Autism; IGF-1; Growth hormone
There is a critical need to identify biomarkers and objective outcome measures that can be used to understand underlying neural mechanisms in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) offer a noninvasive technique to evaluate the functional integrity of neural mechanisms, specifically visual pathways, while probing for disease pathophysiology.
Transient VEPs (tVEPs) were obtained from 96 unmedicated children, including 37 children with ASD, 36 typically developing (TD) children, and 23 unaffected siblings (SIBS). A conventional contrast-reversing checkerboard condition was compared to a novel short-duration condition, which was developed to enable objective data collection from severely affected populations who are often excluded from electroencephalographic (EEG) studies.
Children with ASD showed significantly smaller amplitudes compared to TD children at two of the earliest critical VEP components, P60-N75 and N75-P100. SIBS showed intermediate responses relative to ASD and TD groups. There were no group differences in response latency. Frequency band analyses indicated significantly weaker responses for the ASD group in bands encompassing gamma-wave activity. Ninety-two percent of children with ASD were able to complete the short-duration condition compared to 68% for the standard condition.
The current study establishes the utility of a short-duration tVEP test for use in children at varying levels of functioning and describes neural abnormalities in children with idiopathic ASD. Implications for excitatory/inhibitory balance as well as the potential application of VEP for use in clinical trials are discussed.
Accumulating evidence suggests that autonomic signals and their cortical representations are closely linked to emotional processes, and that related abnormalities could lead to social deficits. Although socio-emotional impairments are a defining feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), empirical evidence directly supporting the link between autonomic, cortical, and socio-emotional abnormalities in ASD is still lacking. In this study, we examined autonomic arousal indexed by skin conductance responses (SCR), concurrent cortical responses measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging, and effective brain connectivity estimated by dynamic causal modeling, in seventeen un-medicated high-functioning adults with ASD and seventeen matched controls, while they performed an empathy-for-pain task. Compared to controls, adults with ASD showed enhanced SCR related to empathetic pain, along with increased neural activity in the anterior insular cortex, although their behavioral empathetic pain discriminability was reduced and overall SCR was decreased. ASD individuals also showed enhanced correlation between SCR and neural activities in the anterior insula. Importantly, significant group differences in effective brain connectivity were limited to greater reduction in the negative intrinsic connectivity of the anterior insular cortex in the ASD group, indicating a failure in attenuating anterior insular responses to empathetic pain. These results suggest that aberrant interoceptive precision, as indexed by abnormalities in autonomic activity and its central representations, may underlie empathy deficits in ASD.
autism spectrum disorder; autonomic nervous system; functional magnetic resonance imaging; brain connectivity; empathy; dynamic causal modelling; interoceptive inference
Phelan–McDermid syndrome (PMS), also called 22q13.3 deletion syndrome, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by global developmental delay, intellectual disability, severe speech delays, poor motor tone and function, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although the overall prevalence of PMS is unknown, there have been at least 1200 cases reported worldwide, according to the Phelan–McDermid Syndrome Foundation. PMS is now considered to be a relatively common cause of ASD and intellectual disability, accounting for between 0.5 % and 2.0 % of cases. The cause of PMS has been isolated to loss of function of one copy of SHANK3, which codes for a master scaffolding protein found in the postsynaptic density of excitatory synapses. Reduced expression of SH3 and multiple ankyrin repeat domains 3 (SHANK3) leads to reduced numbers of dendrites, and impaired synaptic transmission and plasticity. Recent mouse and human neuronal models of PMS have led to important opportunities to develop novel therapeutics, and at least 2 clinical trials are underway, one in the USA, and one in the Netherlands. The SHANK3 pathway may also be relevant to other forms of ASD, and many of the single-gene causes of ASD identified to date appear to converge on several common molecular pathways that underlie synaptic neurotransmission. As a result, treatments developed for PMS may also affect other forms of ASD.
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Phelan-McDermid syndrome; 22q13 deletion syndrome; SHANK3; Autism; Autism spectrum disorder; Neurodevelopmental disorders
This study evaluated the efficacy of a targeted social skills training group in school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The intervention, NETT (Nonverbal communication, Emotion recognition, and Theory of mind Training), is a 12-session cognitive-behavioral intervention (CBI) for verbal, school-aged children targeting ASD-specific social behavioral impairments.
Sixty-nine children with ASD, 8 to 11 years of age with verbal IQs greater than 70, participated in a randomized comparative trial to examine the efficacy of NETT relative to a facilitated play group. Treatment outcomes included caregiver reports of social behavior and neuropsychological assessments of social cognition conducted by blinded raters. Outcomes were collected at baseline, endpoint, and three months posttreatment.
Significant improvements were found on social behavior outcomes such as nonverbal communication, empathic responding, and social relations in the NETT condition relative to the active control at endpoint. Verbal IQ and age moderated the interaction effect on social behavior with higher verbal IQ and older age associated with improvements in the CBI condition. No significant improvements were found on social cognitive outcomes. No significant group differences were found at three-month follow-up conducted with approximately half the sample (n=34).
These data indicate that targeted CBI social skills groups such as NETT improve social communication deficits in verbal, school-aged children with ASD. The moderating effects of high verbal IQ suggest a need to consider participant and treatment characteristics associated with outcomes in future studies.
social skills groups; autism; social cognition; cognitive behavioral intervention; social-communication
Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by deletion or mutation in the SHANK3 gene, is one of the more common single-locus causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). PMS is characterized by global developmental delay, hypotonia, delayed or absent speech, increased risk of seizures, and minor dysmorphic features. Impairments in language and communication are one of the most consistent characteristics of PMS. Although there is considerable overlap in the social communicative deficits associated with PMS and ASD, there is a dearth of data on underlying abnormalities at the level of neural systems in PMS. No controlled neuroimaging studies of PMS have been reported to date. The goal of this study was to examine the neural circuitry supporting the perception of auditory communicative signals in children with PMS as compared to idiopathic ASD (iASD).
Eleven children with PMS and nine comparison children with iASD were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) under light sedation. The fMRI paradigm was a previously validated passive auditory task, which presented communicative (e.g., speech, sounds of agreement, disgust) and non-communicative vocalizations (e.g., sneezing, coughing, yawning).
Previous research has shown that the superior temporal gyrus (STG) responds selectively to communicative vocal signals in typically developing children and adults. Here, selective activity for communicative relative to non-communicative vocalizations was detected in the right STG in the PMS group, but not in the iASD group. The PMS group also showed preferential activity for communicative vocalizations in a range of other brain regions associated with social cognition, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), insula, and inferior frontal gyrus. Interestingly, better orienting toward social sounds was positively correlated with selective activity in the STG and other “social brain” regions, including the MPFC, in the PMS group. Finally, selective MPFC activity for communicative sounds was associated with receptive language level in the PMS group and expressive language in the iASD group.
Despite shared behavioral features, children with PMS differed from children with iASD in their neural response to communicative vocal sounds and showed relative strengths in this area. Furthermore, the relationship between clinical characteristics and neural selectivity also differed between the two groups, suggesting that shared ASD features may partially reflect different neurofunctional abnormalities due to differing etiologies.
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Background: There is a critical need for precision phenotyping across neurodevelopmental disorders, especially in individuals who receive a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Phelan-McDermid deletion syndrome (PMS) is one such example, as it has a high penetrance of ASD. At present, no biometric characterization of the behavioral phenotype within PMS exists.
Methods: We introduce a data-type and statistical framework that permits the personalized profiling of naturalistic behaviors. Walking patterns were assessed in 30 participants (16 PMS, 3 idiopathic-ASD and 11 age- and sex-matched controls). Each individual's micro-movement signatures were recorded at 240 Hz. We empirically estimated the parameters of the continuous Gamma family of probability distributions and calculated their ranges. These estimated stochastic signatures were then mapped on the Gamma plane to obtain several statistical indexes for each child. To help visualize complex patterns across the cohort, we introduce new tools that enable the assessment of connectivity and modularity indexes across the peripheral network of rotational joints.
Results: Typical walking signatures are absent in all children with PMS as well as in the children with idiopathic-ASD (iASD). Underlying these patterns are atypical leg rotational acceleration signatures that render participants with PMS unstable with rotations that are much faster than controls. The median values of the estimated Gamma parameters serve as a cutoff to automatically separate children with PMS 5–7 years old from adolescents with PMS 12–16 years old, the former displaying more randomness and larger noise. The fluctuations in the arm's motions during the walking also have atypical statistics that separate males from females in PMS and show higher rates of noise accumulation in idiopathic ASD (iASD) children. Despite high heterogeneity, all iASD children have excess noise, a narrow range of probability-distribution shapes across the body joints and a distinct joint network connectivity pattern. Both PMS and iASD have systemic issues with noise in micro-motions across the body with specific signatures for each child that, as a cohort, selectively deviates from controls.
Conclusions: We provide a new methodology for precision behavioral phenotyping with the potential to use micro-movement output noise as a natural classifier of neurodevelopmental disorders of known etiology. This approach may help us better understand idiopathic neurodevelopmental disorders and personalize the assessments of natural movements in these populations.
micro-movements; noise; PMS; Phelan-McDermid syndrome; stochastic signatures; gait; gamma distribution; precision phenotyping
The genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorder involves the interplay of common and rare variation and their impact on hundreds of genes. Using exome sequencing, analysis of rare coding variation in 3,871 autism cases and 9,937 ancestry-matched or parental controls implicates 22 autosomal genes at a false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05, and a set of 107 autosomal genes strongly enriched for those likely to affect risk (FDR < 0.30). These 107 genes, which show unusual evolutionary constraint against mutations, incur de novo loss-of-function mutations in over 5% of autistic subjects. Many of the genes implicated encode proteins for synaptic, transcriptional, and chromatin remodeling pathways. These include voltage-gated ion channels regulating propagation of action potentials, pacemaking, and excitability-transcription coupling, as well as histone-modifying enzymes and chromatin remodelers, prominently histone post-translational modifications involving lysine methylation/demethylation.
SHANK proteins are crucial for the formation and plasticity of excitatory synapses. Although mutations in all three SHANK genes are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), SHANK3 appears to be the major ASD gene with a prevalence of approximately 0.5% for SHANK3 mutations in ASD, with higher rates in individuals with ASD and intellectual disability (ID). Interestingly, the most relevant mutations are typically de novo and often are frameshift or nonsense mutations resulting in a premature stop and a truncation of SHANK3 protein.
We analyzed three different SHANK3 stop mutations that we identified in individuals with ASD and/or ID, one novel (c.5008A > T) and two that we recently described (c.1527G > A, c.2497delG). The mutations were inserted into the human SHANK3a sequence and analyzed for effects on subcellular localization and neuronal morphology when overexpressed in rat primary hippocampal neurons.
Clinically, all three individuals harboring these mutations had global developmental delays and ID. In our in vitro assay, c.1527G > A and c.2497delG both result in proteins that lack most of the SHANK3a C-terminus and accumulate in the nucleus of transfected cells. Cells expressing these mutants exhibit converging morphological phenotypes including reduced complexity of the dendritic tree, less spines, and less excitatory, but not inhibitory synapses. In contrast, the truncated protein based on c.5008A > T, which lacks only a short part of the sterile alpha motif (SAM) domain in the very SHANK3a C-terminus, does not accumulate in the nucleus and has minor effects on neuronal morphology.
In spite of the prevalence of SHANK3 disruptions in ASD and ID, only a few human mutations have been functionally characterized; here we characterize three additional mutations. Considering the transcriptional and functional complexity of SHANK3 in healthy neurons, we propose that any heterozygous stop mutation in SHANK3 will lead to a dysequilibrium of SHANK3 isoform expression and alterations in the stoichiometry of SHANK3 protein complexes, resulting in a distinct perturbation of neuronal morphology. This could explain why the clinical phenotype in all three individuals included in this study remains quite severe - regardless of whether there are disruptions in one or more SHANK3 interaction domains.
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ASD; Autism; SHANK3; Intellectual disability; Nucleus; Dendrite; Spine; Synapse
Autism spectrum disorders are associated with social and emotional deficits, the aetiology of which are not well understood. A growing consensus is that the autonomic nervous system serves a key role in emotional processes, by providing physiological signals essential to subjective states. We hypothesized that altered autonomic processing is related to the socio-emotional deficits in autism spectrum disorders. Here, we investigated the relationship between non-specific skin conductance response, an objective index of sympathetic neural activity, and brain fluctuations during rest in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder relative to neurotypical controls. Compared with control participants, individuals with autism spectrum disorder showed less skin conductance responses overall. They also showed weaker correlations between skin conductance responses and frontal brain regions, including the anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortices. Additionally, skin conductance responses were found to have less contribution to default mode network connectivity in individuals with autism spectrum disorders relative to controls. These results suggest that autonomic processing is altered in autism spectrum disorders, which may be related to the abnormal socio-emotional behaviours that characterize this condition.
autism; autonomic nervous system; emotion; skin conductance; resting state
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is now understood to have multiple genetic risk genes and one example is SHANK3. SHANK3 deletions and mutations disrupt synaptic function and result in Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS), which causes a monogenic form of ASD with a frequency of at least 0.5% of ASD cases. Recent evidence from preclinical studies with mouse and human neuronal models of SHANK3 deficiency suggest that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) can reverse synaptic plasticity and motor learning deficits. The objective of this study was to pilot IGF-1 treatment in children with PMS to evaluate safety, tolerability, and efficacy for core deficits of ASD, including social impairment and restricted and repetitive behaviors.
Nine children with PMS aged 5 to 15 were enrolled in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover design study, with 3 months of treatment with IGF-1 and 3 months of placebo in random order, separated by a 4-week wash-out period.
Compared to the placebo phase, the IGF-1 phase was associated with significant improvement in both social impairment and restrictive behaviors, as measured by the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and the Repetitive Behavior Scale, respectively. IGF-1 was found to be well tolerated and there were no serious adverse events in any participants.
This study establishes the feasibility of IGF-1 treatment in PMS and contributes pilot data from the first controlled treatment trial in the syndrome. Results also provide proof of concept to advance knowledge about developing targeted treatments for additional causes of ASD associated with impaired synaptic development and function.
SCN2A is a gene that codes for the alpha subunit of voltage-gated, type II sodium channels, and is highly expressed in the brain. Sodium channel disruptions, such as mutations in SCN2A, may play an important role in psychiatric disorders. Recently, de novo SCN2A mutations in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been identified. The current study characterizes a de novo splice site mutation in SCN2A that alters mRNA and protein products.
We describe results from clinical and genetic characterizations of a seven-year-old boy with ASD. Psychiatric interview and gold standard autism diagnostic instruments (ADOS and ADI-R) were used to confirm ASD diagnosis, in addition to performing standardized cognitive and adaptive functioning assessments (Leiter-R and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale), and sensory reactivity assessments (Sensory Profile and Sensory Processing Scales). Genetic testing by whole exome sequencing revealed four de novo events, including a splice site mutation c.476 + 1G > A in SCN2A, a missense mutation (c.2263G > A) causing a p.V755I change in the TLE1 gene, and two synonymous mutations (c.2943A > G in the BUB1 gene, and c.1254 T > A in C10orf68 gene). The de novo SCN2A splice site mutation produced a stop codon 10 amino acids downstream, possibly resulting in a truncated protein and/or a nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. The participant met new DSM-5 criteria for ASD, presenting with social and communication impairment, repetitive behaviors, and sensory reactivity issues. The participant’s adaptive and cognitive skills fell in the low range of functioning.
This report indicates that a splice site mutation in SCN2A might be contributing to the risk of ASD. Describing the specific phenotype associated with SCN2A mutations might help to reduce heterogeneity seen in ASD.
DSM-5; autism spectrum disorder; de novo SCN2A splice site mutation
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) can be caused by mutations in a large number of genes. One example is SHANK3 on the terminal end of chromosome 22q. Loss of one functional copy of SHANK3 results in 22q13 deletion syndrome or Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS) and causes a monogenic form of ASD and/or ID with a frequency of 0.5% to 2% of cases. SHANK3 is the critical gene in this syndrome, and its loss results in disruption of synaptic function. With chromosomal microarray analyses now a standard of care in the assessment of ASD and developmental delay, and with the emergence of whole exome and whole genome sequencing in this context, identification of PMS in routine clinical settings will increase significantly. However, PMS remains a rare disorder, and the majority of physicians have never seen a case. While there is agreement about core deficits of PMS, there have been no established parameters to guide evaluation and medical monitoring of the syndrome. Evaluations must include a thorough history and physical and dysmorphology examination. Neurological deficits, including the presence of seizures and structural brain abnormalities should be assessed as well as motor deficits. Endocrine, renal, cardiac, and gastrointestinal problems all require assessment and monitoring in addition to the risk of recurring infections, dental and vision problems, and lymphedema. Finally, all patients should have cognitive, behavioral, and ASD evaluations. The objective of this paper is to address this gap in the literature and establish recommendations to assess the medical, genetic, and neurological features of PMS.
Phelan-McDermid syndrome; 22q13 deletion syndrome; SHANK3; Autism; Autism spectrum disorder; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Practice parameters
22q13 deletion syndrome, also known as Phelan-McDermid syndrome, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by intellectual disability, hypotonia, delayed or absent speech, and autistic features. SHANK3 has been identified as the critical gene in the neurological and behavioral aspects of this syndrome. The phenotype of SHANK3 deficiency has been described primarily from case studies, with limited evaluation of behavioral and cognitive deficits. The present study used a prospective design and inter-disciplinary clinical evaluations to assess patients with SHANK3 deficiency, with the goal of providing a comprehensive picture of the medical and behavioral profile of the syndrome.
A serially ascertained sample of patients with SHANK3 deficiency (n = 32) was evaluated by a team of child psychiatrists, neurologists, clinical geneticists, molecular geneticists and psychologists. Patients were evaluated for autism spectrum disorder using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-G.
Thirty participants with 22q13.3 deletions ranging in size from 101 kb to 8.45 Mb and two participants with de novo SHANK3 mutations were included. The sample was characterized by high rates of autism spectrum disorder: 27 (84%) met criteria for autism spectrum disorder and 24 (75%) for autistic disorder. Most patients (77%) exhibited severe to profound intellectual disability and only five (19%) used some words spontaneously to communicate. Dysmorphic features, hypotonia, gait disturbance, recurring upper respiratory tract infections, gastroesophageal reflux and seizures were also common. Analysis of genotype-phenotype correlations indicated that larger deletions were associated with increased levels of dysmorphic features, medical comorbidities and social communication impairments related to autism. Analyses of individuals with small deletions or point mutations identified features related to SHANK3 haploinsufficiency, including ASD, seizures and abnormal EEG, hypotonia, sleep disturbances, abnormal brain MRI, gastroesophageal reflux, and certain dysmorphic features.
This study supports findings from previous research on the severity of intellectual, motor, and speech impairments seen in SHANK3 deficiency, and highlights the prominence of autism spectrum disorder in the syndrome. Limitations of existing evaluation tools are discussed, along with the need for natural history studies to inform clinical monitoring and treatment development in SHANK3 deficiency.
22q13 deletion syndrome; Autism; Microarrays; Mutation; Phelan-McDermid syndrome; SHANK3
Evidence from biochemical, imaging, and treatment studies suggest abnormalities of the serotonin system in autism spectrum disorders, in particular in frontolimbic areas of the brain. We used the radiotracers [11C]MDL 100907 and [11C]DASB to characterize the 5-HT2A receptor and serotonin transporter in Asperger’s Disorder. 17 individuals with Asperger’s Disorder (age = 34.3 ± 11.1 yr) and 17 healthy controls (age = 33.0 ± 9.6 yr) were scanned with [11C]MDL 100907. Of the 17 patients, eight (age = 29.7 ± 7.0 yr) were also scanned with [11C]DASB, as were eight healthy controls (age = 28.7 ± 7.0 yr). Patients with Asperger’s Disorder and healthy control subjects were matched for age, gender, and ethnicity, and all had normal intelligence. Metabolite-corrected arterial plasma inputs were collected and data analyzed by 2 tissue-compartment modeling. The primary outcome measure was regional binding potential BPND. Neither regional [11C]MDL 100907 BPND nor [11C]DASB BPND were statistically different between the Asperger’s and healthy subjects. This study failed to find significant alterations in binding parameters of 5-HT2A receptors and serotonin transporters in adult subjects with Asperger’s Disorder.
autism spectrum disorders; 5-HT2A receptor; Asperger’s Disorder; positron emission tomography; serotonin transporter; serotonin
Attentional dysfunction is among the most consistent observations of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the neural nature of this deficit in ASD is still unclear. In this study, we aimed to identify the neurobehavioral correlates of attentional dysfunction in ASD. We used the Attention Network Test-Revised and functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine alerting, orienting, and executive control functions, as well as the neural substrates underlying these attentional functions in unmedicated, high-functioning adults with ASD (n = 12) and matched healthy controls (HC, n = 12). Compared with HC, individuals with ASD showed increased error rates in alerting and executive control, accompanied by lower activity in the mid-frontal gyrus and the caudate nucleus for alerting, and by the absence of significant functional activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) for executive control. In addition, greater behavioral deficiency in executive control in ASD was correlated with less functional activation of the ACC. These findings of behavioral and neural abnormalities in alerting and executive control of attention in ASD may suggest core attentional deficits, which require further investigation.
Alerting; anterior cingulate cortex; attentional networks; autism; executive control
While it is apparent that rare variation can play an important role in the genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the contribution of common variation to the risk of developing ASD is less clear. To produce a more comprehensive picture, we report Stage 2 of the Autism Genome Project genome-wide association study, adding 1301 ASD families and bringing the total to 2705 families analysed (Stages 1 and 2). In addition to evaluating the association of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), we also sought evidence that common variants, en masse, might affect the risk. Despite genotyping over a million SNPs covering the genome, no single SNP shows significant association with ASD or selected phenotypes at a genome-wide level. The SNP that achieves the smallest P-value from secondary analyses is rs1718101. It falls in CNTNAP2, a gene previously implicated in susceptibility for ASD. This SNP also shows modest association with age of word/phrase acquisition in ASD subjects, of interest because features of language development are also associated with other variation in CNTNAP2. In contrast, allele scores derived from the transmission of common alleles to Stage 1 cases significantly predict case status in the independent Stage 2 sample. Despite being significant, the variance explained by these allele scores was small (Vm< 1%). Based on results from individual SNPs and their en masse effect on risk, as inferred from the allele score results, it is reasonable to conclude that common variants affect the risk for ASD but their individual effects are modest.
Attentional dysfunction is one of the most consistent findings in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the significance of such findings for the pathophysiology of autism is unclear. In this study, we investigated cellular neurochemistry with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging (1H-MRS) in brain regions associated with networks subserving alerting, orienting, and executive control of attention in patients with ASD. Concentrations of cerebral N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), creatinine + phosphocreatinine, choline-containing compounds, myo-inositol (Ins) and glutamate + glutamine (Glx) were determined by 3 T 1H-MRS examinations in 14 high-functioning medication-free adults with a diagnosis of ASD and 14 age- and IQ-matched healthy controls (HC) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), thalamus, temporoparietal junction (TPJ), and areas near or along the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). Compared to HC group, the ASD group showed significantly lower Glx concentrations in right ACC and reduced Ins in left TPJ. This study provides evidence of abnormalities in neurotransmission related to networks subserving executive control and alerting of attention, functions which have been previously implicated in ASD pathogenesis.
autism; spectroscopy; glutamate; anterior cingulate cortex; intraparietal sulcus; myo-inositol
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable disorder of complex and heterogeneous aetiology. It is primarily characterized by altered cognitive ability including impaired language and communication skills and fundamental deficits in social reciprocity. Despite some notable successes in neuropsychiatric genetics, overall, the high heritability of ASD (~90%) remains poorly explained by common genetic risk variants. However, recent studies suggest that rare genomic variation, in particular copy number variation, may account for a significant proportion of the genetic basis of ASD. We present a large scale analysis to identify candidate genes which may contain low-frequency recessive variation contributing to ASD while taking into account the potential contribution of population differences to the genetic heterogeneity of ASD. Our strategy, homozygous haplotype (HH) mapping, aims to detect homozygous segments of identical haplotype structure that are shared at a higher frequency amongst ASD patients compared to parental controls. The analysis was performed on 1,402 Autism Genome Project trios genotyped for 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We identified 25 known and 1,218 novel ASD candidate genes in the discovery analysis including CADM2, ABHD14A, CHRFAM7A, GRIK2, GRM3, EPHA3, FGF10, KCND2, PDZK1, IMMP2L and FOXP2. Furthermore, 10 of the previously reported ASD genes and 300 of the novel candidates identified in the discovery analysis were replicated in an independent sample of 1,182 trios. Our results demonstrate that regions of HH are significantly enriched for previously reported ASD candidate genes and the observed association is independent of gene size (odds ratio 2.10). Our findings highlight the applicability of HH mapping in complex disorders such as ASD and offer an alternative approach to the analysis of genome-wide association data.
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This study was conducted to examine the relationship between whole blood serotonin level and behavioral symptoms in 78 subjects with autism. No significant associations were found between serotonin level and the primary behavioral outcome measures. However, a significant inverse relationship between serotonin level and self-injury was demonstrated.
autism; serotonin; repetitive behavior; self-injury; aggression
The autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of conditions characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction and communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors1. Individuals with an ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability (ID)2. While ASDs are known to be highly heritable (~90%)3, the underlying genetic determinants are still largely unknown. Here, we analyzed the genome-wide characteristics of rare (<1% frequency) copy number variation (CNV) in ASD using dense genotyping arrays. When comparing 996 ASD individuals of European ancestry to 1,287 matched controls, cases were found to carry a higher global burden of rare, genic CNVs (1.19 fold, P= 0.012), especially so for loci previously implicated in either ASD and/or intellectual disability (1.69 fold, P= 3.4×10−4). Among the CNVs, there were numerous de novo and inherited events, sometimes in combination in a given family, implicating many novel ASD genes like SHANK2, SYNGAP1, DLGAP2 and the X-linked DDX53-PTCHD1 locus. We also discovered an enrichment of CNVs disrupting functional gene-sets involved in cellular proliferation, projection and motility, and GTPase/Ras signaling. Our results reveal many new genetic and functional targets in ASD that may lead to final connected pathways.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are childhood neurodevelopmental disorders with complex genetic origins1–4. Previous studies focusing on candidate genes or genomic regions have identified several copy number variations (CNVs) that are associated with an increased risk of ASDs5–9. Here we present the results from a whole-genome CNV study on a cohort of 859 ASD cases and 1,409 healthy children of European ancestry who were genotyped with ~550,000 single nucleotide polymorphism markers, in an attempt to comprehensively identify CNVs conferring susceptibility to ASDs. Positive findings were evaluated in an independent cohort of 1,336 ASD cases and 1,110 controls of European ancestry. Besides previously reported ASD candidate genes, such as NRXN1 (ref. 10) and CNTN4 (refs 11, 12), several new susceptibility genes encoding neuronal cell-adhesion molecules, including NLGN1 and ASTN2, were enriched with CNVs in ASD cases compared to controls (P = 9.5 × 10−3). Furthermore, CNVs within or surrounding genes involved in the ubiquitin pathways, including UBE3A, PARK2, RFWD2 and FBXO40, were affected by CNVs not observed in controls (P = 3.3 × 10−3). We also identified duplications 55 kilobases upstream of complementary DNA AK123120 (P = 3.6 × 10−6). Although these variants may be individually rare, they target genes involved in neuronal cell-adhesion or ubiquitin degradation, indicating that these two important gene networks expressed within the central nervous system may contribute to the genetic susceptibility of ASD.
Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have a substantial genetic basis, most of the known genetic risk has been traced to rare variants, principally copy number variants (CNVs). To identify common risk variation, the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium genotyped 1558 rigorously defined ASD families for 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and analyzed these SNP genotypes for association with ASD. In one of four primary association analyses, the association signal for marker rs4141463, located within MACROD2, crossed the genome-wide association significance threshold of P < 5 × 10−8. When a smaller replication sample was analyzed, the risk allele at rs4141463 was again over-transmitted; yet, consistent with the winner's curse, its effect size in the replication sample was much smaller; and, for the combined samples, the association signal barely fell below the P < 5 × 10−8 threshold. Exploratory analyses of phenotypic subtypes yielded no significant associations after correction for multiple testing. They did, however, yield strong signals within several genes, KIAA0564, PLD5, POU6F2, ST8SIA2 and TAF1C.