Genetics

Association Between Microdeletion and Microduplication at 16p11.2 and Autism

Source: 
New England Journal of Medicine, Weiss, Shen, et al
Date Published: 
2008

We have identified a novel, recurrent microdeletion and a reciprocal microduplication that carry substantial susceptibility to autism and appear to account for approximately 1% of cases. We did not identify other regions with similar aggregations of large de novo mutations. Among the AGRE families, we observed five instances of a de novo deletion of 593 kb on chromosome 16p11.2. Using comparative genomic hybridization, we observed the identical deletion in 5 of 512 children referred to Children's Hospital Boston for developmental delay, mental retardation, or suspected autism spectrum disorder, as well as in 3 of 299 persons with autism in an Icelandic population; the deletion was also carried by 2 of 18,834 unscreened Icelandic control subjects. The reciprocal duplication of this region occurred in 7 affected persons in AGRE families and 4 of the 512 children from Children's Hospital Boston. The duplication also appeared to be a high-penetrance risk factor.

Strong association of de novo copy number mutations with sporadic schizophrenia.

Source: 
Nature Genetics, Xu, Roose, et al
Date Published: 
2008
Year Published: 
2008

Schizophrenia is an etiologically heterogeneous psychiatric disease, which exists in familial and nonfamilial (sporadic) forms. Here, we examine the possibility that rare de novo copy number (CN) mutations with relatively high penetrance contribute to the genetic component of schizophrenia. We carried out a whole-genome scan and implemented a number of steps for finding and confirming CN mutations. Confirmed de novo mutations were significantly associated with schizophrenia (P = 0.00078) and were collectively approximately 8 times more frequent in sporadic (but not familial) cases with schizophrenia than in unaffected controls. In comparison, rare inherited CN mutations were only modestly enriched in sporadic cases. Our results suggest that rare de novo germline mutations contribute to schizophrenia vulnerability in sporadic cases and that rare genetic lesions at many different loci can account, at least in part, for the genetic heterogeneity of this disease.

Linkage, Association, and Gene Expression Analyses Identify CNTNAP2 as an Autism-Susceptibility Gene

Source: 
American Journal of Human Genetics, Alarcon, Abrahams, et al.
Date Published: 
January 2008
Year Published: 
2008

Autism is a genetically complex neurodevelopmental syndrome in which language deficits are a core feature. We describe results from two complimentary approaches used to identify risk variants on chromosome 7 that likely contribute to the etiology of autism. A two-stage association study tested 2758 SNPs across a 10 Mb 7q35 language-related autism QTL in AGRE (Autism Genetic Resource Exchange) trios and found significant association with Contactin Associated Protein-Like 2 (CNTNAP2), a strong a priori candidate. Male-only containing families were identified as primarily responsible for this association signal, consistent with the strong male affection bias in ASD and other language-based disorders. Gene-expression analyses in developing human brain further identified CNTNAP2 as enriched in circuits important for language development. Together, these results provide convergent evidence for involvement of CNTNAP2, a Neurexin family member, in autism, and demonstrate a connection between genetic risk for autism and specific brain structures.

A Common Genetic variant in the neurexin superfamily member CNTNAP2 increases Familial Risk of Autism

Source: 
American Journal of Human Genetics, Arking, Cutler, et al
Date Published: 
December 2008
Year Published: 
2008

Autism is a childhood neuropsychiatric disorder that, despite exhibiting high heritability, has largely eluded efforts to identify specific genetic variants underlying its etiology. We performed a two-stage genetic study in which genome-wide linkage and family-based association mapping was followed up by association and replication studies in an independent sample. We identified a common polymorphism in contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2), a member of the neurexin superfamily, that is significantly associated with autism susceptibility. Importantly, the genetic variant displays a parent-of-origin and gender effect recapitulating the inheritance of autism.

Molecular Cytogenetic Analysis and Resequencing of Contactin Associate Protein-Like 2 in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
American Journal of Human Genetics, Bakkaloglu, O’Roak, et al
Date Published: 
2008
Year Published: 
2008

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of related neurodevelopmental syndromes with complex genetic etiology. We identified a de novo chromosome 7q inversion disrupting Autism susceptibility candidate 2 (AUTS2) and Contactin Associated Protein-Like 2 (CNTNAP2) in a child with cognitive and social delay. We focused our initial analysis on CNTNAP2 based on our demonstration of disruption of Contactin 4 (CNTN4) in a patient with ASD; the recent finding of rare homozygous mutations in CNTNAP2 leading to intractable seizures and autism; and in situ and biochemical analyses reported herein that confirm expression in relevant brain regions and demonstrate the presence of CNTNAP2 in the synaptic plasma membrane fraction of rat forebrain lysates. We comprehensively resequenced CNTNAP2 in 635 patients and 942 controls. Among patients, we identified a total of 27 nonsynonymous changes; 13 were rare and unique to patients and 8 of these were predicted to be deleterious by bioinformatic approaches and/or altered residues conserved across all species. One variant at a highly conserved position, I869T, was inherited by four affected children in three unrelated families, but was not found in 4010 control chromosomes (p = 0.014). Overall, this resequencing data demonstrated a modest nonsignificant increase in the burden of rare variants in cases versus controls. Nonetheless, when viewed in light of two independent studies published in this issue of AJHG showing a relationship between ASD and common CNTNAP2 alleles, the cytogenetic and mutation screening data suggest that rare variants may also contribute to the pathophysiology of ASD, but place limits on the magnitude of this contribution.

Autism: Maternally derived antibodies specific for fetal brain proteins

Source: 
Neurotoxicology, Braunschweig, Ashwood, et al
Date Published: 
2008
Year Published: 
2008

Autism is a profound disorder of neurodevelopment with poorly understood biological origins. A potential role for maternal autoantibodies in the etiology of some cases of autism has been proposed in previous studies To investigate this hypothesis, maternal plasma antibodies against human fetal and adult brain proteins were analyzed by western blot in 61 mothers of children with autistic disorder and 102 controls matched for maternal age and birth year (62 mothers of typically developing children (TD) and 40 mothers of children with non-ASD developmental delays (DD)). We observed reactivity to two protein bands at approximately 73kDa and 37kDa in plasma from 7 of 61 (11.5%) mothers of children with autism (AU) against fetal but not adult brain, which was not noted in either control group (TD; 0/62 p=0.0061 and DD; 0/40 p=0.0401). Further, the presence of reactivity to these two bands correlated with a diagnosis of behavioral regression in the child when compared to the TD (p=0.0019) and DD (0.0089) groups. Individual reactivity to the 37kDa band was observed significantly more often in the AU population compared with TD (p=0.0086) and DD (p=0.002) mothers, yielding a 5.69-fold odds ratio (95% confidence interval 2.09 - 15.51) associated with this band. The presence of these antibodies in the plasma of some mothers of children with autism, as well as the differential findings between mothers of children with early onset and regressive autism may suggest an association between the transfer of IgG autoantibodies during early neurodevelopment and the risk of developing of autism in some children.

MeCP2, A Key Contributor to Neurological Disease, Activates and Represses Transcription

Source: 
Science, Chahrour, Jung et al
Date Published: 
2008

Mutations in the gene encoding the transcriptional repressor methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) cause the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome. Loss of function as well as increased dosage of the MECP2 gene cause a host of neuropsychiatric disorders. To explore the molecular mechanism(s) underlying these disorders, we examined gene expression patterns in the hypothalamus of mice that either lack or overexpress MeCP2. In both models, MeCP2 dysfunction induced changes in the expression levels of thousands of genes, but unexpectedly the majority of genes (approximately 85%) appeared to be activated by MeCP2. We selected six genes and confirmed that MeCP2 binds to their promoters. Furthermore, we showed that MeCP2 associates with the transcriptional activator CREB1 at the promoter of an activated target but not a repressed target. These studies suggest that MeCP2 regulates the expression of a wide range of genes in the hypothalamus and that it can function as both an activator and a repressor of transcription.

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Proteins Control Axon Formation

Source: 
Genes Development, Choi, DiNardo, et al
Date Published: 
2008
Year Published: 
2008

Axon formation is fundamental for brain development and function. TSC1 and TSC2 are two genes, mutations in which cause tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a disease characterized by tumor predisposition and neurological abnormalities including epilepsy, mental retardation, and autism. Here we show that Tsc1 and Tsc2 have critical functions in mammalian axon formation and growth. Overexpression of Tsc1/Tsc2 suppresses axon formation, whereas a lack of Tsc1 or Tsc2 function induces ectopic axons in vitro and in the mouse brain. Tsc2 is phosphorylated and inhibited in the axon but not dendrites. Inactivation of Tsc1/Tsc2 promotes axonal growth, at least in part, via up-regulation of neuronal polarity SAD kinase, which is also elevated in cortical tubers of a TSC patient. Our results reveal key roles of TSC1/TSC2 in neuronal polarity, suggest a common pathway regulating polarization/growth in neurons and cell size in other tissues, and have implications for the understanding of the pathogenesis of TSC and associated neurological disorders and for axonal regeneration.