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1.  Fluoxetine Increases the Expression of miR-572 and miR-663a in Human Neuroblastoma Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(10):e0164425.
Evidence suggests neuroprotective effects of fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), on the developed neurons in the adult brain. In contrast, the drug may be deleterious to immature or undifferentiated neural cells, although the mechanism is unclear. Recent investigations have suggested that microRNAs (miRNA) may be critical for effectiveness of psychotropic drugs including SSRI. We investigated whether fluoxetine could modulate expressions of neurologically relevant miRNAs in two neuroblastoma SK-N-SH and SH-SY5Y cell lines. Initial screening results revealed that three (miR-489, miR-572 and miR-663a) and four (miR-320a, miR-489, miR-572 and miR-663a) miRNAs were up-regulated in SK-N-SH cells and SH-SY5Y cells, respectively, after 24 hours treatment of fluoxetine (1–25 μM). Cell viability was reduced according to the dose of fluoxetine. The upregulation of miR-572 and miR-663a was consistent in both the SH-SY5Y and SK-N-SH cells, confirmed by a larger scale culture condition. Our data is the first in vitro evidence that fluoxetine could increase the expression of miRNAs in undifferentiated neural cells, and that putative target genes of those miRNAs have been shown to be involved in fundamental neurodevelopmental processes.
PMCID: PMC5055328  PMID: 27716787
2.  Zinc finger protein 804A (ZNF804A) and verbal deficits in individuals with autism 
In a genome-wide association study of autism, zinc finger protein 804A (ZNF804A) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were found to be nominally associated in verbally deficient individuals with autism. Zinc finger protein 804A copy number variations (CNVs) have also been observed in individuals with autism. In addition, ZNF804A is known to be involved in theory of mind (ToM) tasks, and ToM deficits are deemed responsible for the communication and social challenges faced by individuals with autism. We hypothesized that ZNF804A could be a risk gene for autism.
We examined the genetic association and CNVs of ZNF804A in 841 families in which 1 or more members had autism. We compared the expression of ZNF804A in the postmortem brains of individuals with autism (n = 8) and controls (n = 13). We also assessed in vitro the effect of ZNF804A silencing on the expression of several genes known to be involved in verbal efficiency and social cognition.
We found that rs7603001 was nominally associated with autism (p = 0.018). The association was stronger (p = 0.008) in the families of individuals with autism who were verbally deficient (n = 761 families). We observed ZNF804A CNVs in 7 verbally deficient boys with autism. In ZNF804A knockdown cells, the expression of synaptosomal-associated protein, 25kDa (SNAP25) was reduced compared with controls (p = 0.009). The expression of ZNF804A (p = 0.009) and SNAP25 (p = 0.009) were reduced in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) of individuals with autism. There was a strong positive correlation between the expression of ZNF804A and SNAP25 in the ACG (p < 0.001).
Study limitations include our small sample size of postmortem brains.
Our results suggest that ZNF804A could be a potential candidate gene mediating the intermediate phenotypes associated with verbal traits in individuals with autism.
PMCID: PMC4160358  PMID: 24866414
3.  Serum microRNA profiles in children with autism 
Molecular Autism  2014;5:40.
As regulators of gene expression, microRNAs (miRNAs) play a key role in the transcriptional networks of the developing human brain. Circulating miRNAs in the serum and plasma are remarkably stable and are suggested to have promise as noninvasive biomarkers for neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders. We examined the serum expression profiles of neurologically relevant miRNAs in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by multiple deficits in communication, social interaction and behavior.
Total RNA, including miRNA, was extracted from the serum samples of 55 individuals with ASD and 55 age- and sex-matched control subjects, and the mature miRNAs were selectively converted into cDNA. Initially, the expression of 125 mature miRNAs was compared between pooled control and ASD samples. The differential expression of 14 miRNAs was further validated by SYBR Green quantitative PCR of individual samples. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of miRNAs. The target genes and pathways of miRNAs were predicted using DIANA mirPath software.
Thirteen miRNAs were differentially expressed in ASD individuals compared to the controls. MiR-151a-3p, miR-181b-5p, miR-320a, miR-328, miR-433, miR-489, miR-572, and miR-663a were downregulated, while miR-101-3p, miR-106b-5p, miR-130a-3p, miR-195-5p, and miR-19b-3p were upregulated. Five miRNAs showed good predictive power for distinguishing individuals with ASD. The target genes of these miRNAs were enriched in several crucial neurological pathways.
This is the first study of serum miRNAs in ASD individuals. The results suggest that a set of serum miRNAs might serve as a possible noninvasive biomarker for ASD.
PMCID: PMC4132421  PMID: 25126405
Autism spectrum disorder; microRNA; complementary DNA; microarray; quantitative PCR
5.  Protocadherin α (PCDHA) as a novel susceptibility gene for autism 
Synaptic dysfunction has been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of autism. We hypothesized that the protocadherin α gene cluster (PCDHA), which is involved in synaptic specificity and in serotonergic innervation of the brain, could be a suitable candidate gene for autism.
We examined 14 PCDHA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for genetic association with autism in DNA samples of 3211 individuals (841 families, including 574 multiplex families) obtained from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange.
Five SNPs (rs251379, rs1119032, rs17119271, rs155806 and rs17119346) showed significant associations with autism. The strongest association (p < 0.001) was observed for rs1119032 (z score of risk allele G = 3.415) in multiplex families; SNP associations withstand multiple testing correction in multiplex families (p = 0.041). Haplotypes involving rs1119032 showed very strong associations with autism, withstanding multiple testing corrections. In quantitative transmission disequilibrium testing of multiplex families, the G allele of rs1119032 showed a significant association (p = 0.033) with scores on the Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised (ADI-R)_D (early developmental abnormalities). We also found a significant difference in the distribution of ADI-R_A (social interaction) scores between the A/A, A/G and G/G genotypes of rs17119346 (p = 0.002).
Our results should be replicated in an independent population and/or in samples of different racial backgrounds.
Our study provides strong genetic evidence of PCDHA as a potential candidate gene for autism.
PMCID: PMC3633712  PMID: 23031252
6.  Seasonal Variations of Neuromotor Development By 14 Months of Age: Hamamatsu Birth Cohort for Mothers and Children (HBC Study) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52057.
The present study aimed at investigating whether neuromotor development, from birth to 14 months of age, shows seasonal, cyclic patterns in association with months of birth. Study participants were 742 infants enrolled in the Hamamatsu Birth Cohort (HBC) Study and followed-up from birth to the 14th month of age. Gross motor skills were assessed at the ages of 6, 10, and 14 months, using Mullen Scales of Early Learning. The score at each assessment was regressed onto a trigonometric function of months of birth, with an adjustment for potential confounders. Gross motor scores at the 6th and 10th months showed significant 1-year-cycle variations, peaking among March- and April-born infants, and among February-born infants, respectively. Changes in gross motor scores between the 10th and 14th months also showed a cyclic variation, peaking among July- and August-born infants. Due to this complementary effect, gross motor scores at the 14th month did not show seasonality. Neuromotor development showed cyclic seasonality during the first year of life. The effects brought about by month of birth disappeared around 1 year of age, and warmer months seemed to accelerate the neuromotor development.
PMCID: PMC3526524  PMID: 23284868
7.  Brain region-specific altered expression and association of mitochondria-related genes in autism 
Molecular Autism  2012;3:12.
Mitochondrial dysfunction (MtD) has been observed in approximately five percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). MtD could impair highly energy-dependent processes such as neurodevelopment, thereby contributing to autism. Most of the previous studies of MtD in autism have been restricted to the biomarkers of energy metabolism, while most of the genetic studies have been based on mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Despite the mtDNA, most of the proteins essential for mitochondrial replication and function are encoded by the genomic DNA; so far, there have been very few studies of those genes. Therefore, we carried out a detailed study involving gene expression and genetic association studies of genes related to diverse mitochondrial functions.
For gene expression analysis, postmortem brain tissues (anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG), motor cortex (MC) and thalamus (THL)) from autism patients (n=8) and controls (n=10) were obtained from the Autism Tissue Program (Princeton, NJ, USA). Quantitative real-time PCR arrays were used to quantify the expression of 84 genes related to diverse functions of mitochondria, including biogenesis, transport, translocation and apoptosis. We used the delta delta Ct (∆∆Ct) method for quantification of gene expression. DNA samples from 841 Caucasian and 188 Japanese families were used in the association study of genes selected from the gene expression analysis. FBAT was used to examine genetic association with autism.
Several genes showed brain region-specific expression alterations in autism patients compared to controls. Metaxin 2 (MTX2), neurofilament, light polypeptide (NEFL) and solute carrier family 25, member 27 (SLC25A27) showed consistently reduced expression in the ACG, MC and THL of autism patients. NEFL (P = 0.038; Z-score 2.066) and SLC25A27 (P = 0.046; Z-score 1.990) showed genetic association with autism in Caucasian and Japanese samples, respectively. The expression of DNAJC19, DNM1L, LRPPRC, SLC25A12, SLC25A14, SLC25A24 and TOMM20 were reduced in at least two of the brain regions of autism patients.
Our study, though preliminary, brings to light some new genes associated with MtD in autism. If MtD is detected in early stages, treatment strategies aimed at reducing its impact may be adopted.
PMCID: PMC3528421  PMID: 23116158
Autism; Mitochondria; Postmortem brain; NEFL; Uncoupling protein; Metaxin
8.  Vldlr overexpression causes hyperactivity in rats 
Molecular Autism  2012;3:11.
Reelin regulates neuronal positioning in cortical brain structures and neuronal migration via binding to the lipoprotein receptors Vldlr and Lrp8. Reeler mutant mice display severe brain morphological defects and behavioral abnormalities. Several reports have implicated reelin signaling in the etiology of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Moreover, it has been reported that VLDLR mRNA levels are increased in the post-mortem brain of autistic patients.
We generated transgenic (Tg) rats overexpressing Vldlr, and examined their histological and behavioral features.
Spontaneous locomotor activity was significantly increased in Tg rats, without detectable changes in brain histology. Additionally, Tg rats tended to show performance deficits in the radial maze task, suggesting that their spatial working memory was slightly impaired. Thus, Vldlr levels may be involved in determining locomotor activity and memory function.
Unlike reeler mice, patients with neurodevelopmental or psychiatric disorders do not show striking neuroanatomical aberrations. Therefore, it is notable, from a clinical point of view, that we observed behavioral phenotypes in Vldlr-Tg rats in the absence of neuroanatomical abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC3533969  PMID: 23110844
Hyperactivity; Neurodevelopmental disorder; Psychiatric disorder; Reelin; Transgenic rat; Vldlr
9.  Association of Transcription Factor Gene LMX1B with Autism 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23738.
Multiple lines of evidence suggest a serotoninergic dysfunction in autism. The role of LMX1B in the development and maintenance of serotoninergic neurons is well known. In order to examine the role, if any, of LMX1B with autism pathophysiology, a trio-based SNP association study using 252 family samples from the AGRE was performed. Using pair-wise tagging method, 24 SNPs were selected from the HapMap data, based on their location and minor allele frequency. Two SNPs (rs10732392 and rs12336217) showed moderate association with autism with p values 0.018 and 0.022 respectively in transmission disequilibrium test. The haplotype AGCGTG also showed significant association (p = 0.008). Further, LMX1B mRNA expressions were studied in the postmortem brain tissues of autism subjects and healthy controls samples. LMX1B transcripts was found to be significantly lower in the anterior cingulate gyrus region of autism patients compared with controls (p = 0.049). Our study suggests a possible role of LMX1B in the pathophysiology of autism. Based on previous reports, it is likely to be mediated through a seretoninergic mechanism. This is the first report on the association of LMX1B with autism, though it should be viewed with some caution considering the modest associations we report.
PMCID: PMC3162001  PMID: 21901133
10.  Decreased expression of axon-guidance receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex in autism 
Molecular Autism  2011;2:14.
Axon-guidance proteins play a crucial role in brain development. As the dysfunction of axon-guidance signaling is thought to underlie the microstructural abnormalities of the brain in people with autism, we examined the postmortem brains of people with autism to identify any changes in the expression of axon-guidance proteins.
The mRNA and protein expression of axon-guidance proteins, including ephrin (EFN)A4, eEFNB3, plexin (PLXN)A4, roundabout 2 (ROBO)2 and ROBO3, were examined in the anterior cingulate cortex and primary motor cortex of autistic brains (n = 8 and n = 7, respectively) and control brains (n = 13 and n = 8, respectively) using real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) and western blotting. Real-time RT-PCR revealed that the relative expression levels of EFNB3, PLXNA4A and ROBO2 were significantly lower in the autistic group than in the control group. The protein levels of these three genes were further analyzed by western blotting, which showed that the immunoreactive values for PLXNA4 and ROBO2, but not for EFNB3, were significantly reduced in the ACC of the autistic brains compared with control brains.
In this study, we found decreased expression of axon-guidance proteins such as PLXNA4 and ROBO2 in the brains of people with autism, and suggest that dysfunctional axon-guidance protein expression may play an important role in the pathophysiology of autism.
PMCID: PMC3177773  PMID: 21859478
11.  Irradiation in Adulthood as a New Model of Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(5):e2283.
Epidemiological studies suggest that radiation exposure may be a potential risk factor for schizophrenia in adult humans. Here, we investigated whether adult irradiation in rats caused behavioral abnormalities relevant to schizophrenia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total dose of 15-Gy irradiation in six fractionations during 3 weeks was exposed to the forebrain including the subventricular zone (SVZ) and subgranular zone (SGZ) with male rats in the prone position. Behavioral, immunohistochemical, and neurochemical studies were performed three months after fractionated ionizing irradiation. Three months after fractionated ionizing irradiation, the total numbers of BrdU-positive cells in both the SVZ and SGZ zones of irradiated rats were significantly lower than those of control (sham-irradiated) rats. Hyperactivity after administration of the dopaminergic agonist methamphetamine, but not the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist dizocilpine, was significantly enhanced in the irradiated rats although spontaneous locomotion in the irradiated rats was significantly lower than that of controls. Behavioral abnormalities including auditory sensory gating deficits, social interaction deficits, and working memory deficits were observed in the irradiated rats.
The present study suggests that irradiation in adulthood caused behavioral abnormalities relevant to schizophrenia, and that reduction of adult neurogenesis by irradiation may be associated with schizophrenia-like behaviors in rats.
PMCID: PMC2386242  PMID: 18509473
12.  Genetic affinities among the lower castes and tribal groups of India: inference from Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA 
BMC Genetics  2006;7:42.
India is a country with enormous social and cultural diversity due to its positioning on the crossroads of many historic and pre-historic human migrations. The hierarchical caste system in the Hindu society dominates the social structure of the Indian populations. The origin of the caste system in India is a matter of debate with many linguists and anthropologists suggesting that it began with the arrival of Indo-European speakers from Central Asia about 3500 years ago. Previous genetic studies based on Indian populations failed to achieve a consensus in this regard. We analysed the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA of three tribal populations of southern India, compared the results with available data from the Indian subcontinent and tried to reconstruct the evolutionary history of Indian caste and tribal populations.
No significant difference was observed in the mitochondrial DNA between Indian tribal and caste populations, except for the presence of a higher frequency of west Eurasian-specific haplogroups in the higher castes, mostly in the north western part of India. On the other hand, the study of the Indian Y lineages revealed distinct distribution patterns among caste and tribal populations. The paternal lineages of Indian lower castes showed significantly closer affinity to the tribal populations than to the upper castes. The frequencies of deep-rooted Y haplogroups such as M89, M52, and M95 were higher in the lower castes and tribes, compared to the upper castes.
The present study suggests that the vast majority (>98%) of the Indian maternal gene pool, consisting of Indio-European and Dravidian speakers, is genetically more or less uniform. Invasions after the late Pleistocene settlement might have been mostly male-mediated. However, Y-SNP data provides compelling genetic evidence for a tribal origin of the lower caste populations in the subcontinent. Lower caste groups might have originated with the hierarchical divisions that arose within the tribal groups with the spread of Neolithic agriculturalists, much earlier than the arrival of Aryan speakers. The Indo-Europeans established themselves as upper castes among this already developed caste-like class structure within the tribes.
PMCID: PMC1569435  PMID: 16893451
13.  In situ origin of deep rooting lineages of mitochondrial Macrohaplogroup 'M' in India 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:151.
Macrohaplogroups 'M' and 'N' have evolved almost in parallel from a founder haplogroup L3. Macrohaplogroup N in India has already been defined in previous studies and recently the macrohaplogroup M among the Indian populations has been characterized. In this study, we attempted to reconstruct and re-evaluate the phylogeny of Macrohaplogroup M, which harbors more than 60% of the Indian mtDNA lineage, and to shed light on the origin of its deep rooting haplogroups.
Using 11 whole mtDNA and 2231 partial coding sequence of Indian M lineage selected from 8670 HVS1 sequences across India, we have reconstructed the tree including Andamanese-specific lineage M31 and calculated the time depth of all the nodes. We defined one novel haplogroup M41, and revised the classification of haplogroups M3, M18, and M31.
Our result indicates that the Indian mtDNA pool consists of several deep rooting lineages of macrohaplogroup 'M' suggesting in-situ origin of these haplogroups in South Asia, most likely in the India. These deep rooting lineages are not language specific and spread over all the language groups in India. Moreover, our reanalysis of the Andamanese-specific lineage M31 suggests population specific two clear-cut subclades (M31a1 and M31a2). Onge and Jarwa share M31a1 branch while M31a2 clade is present in only Great Andamanese individuals. Overall our study supported the one wave, rapid dispersal theory of modern humans along the Asian coast.
PMCID: PMC1534032  PMID: 16776823

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