Autism NPCs from both idiopathic and CNV 16p11.2 deletion patients exhibit dysregulation of proliferation and mitogenic responses

Neural precursor cell (NPC) dysfunction has been consistently implicated in autism. Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived NPCs from two autism groups (three idiopathic [I-ASD] and two 16p11.2 deletion [16pDel]) were used to investigate if proliferation is commonly disrupted. All five individuals display defects, with all three macrocephalic individuals (two 16pDel, one I-ASD) exhibiting hyperproliferation and the other two I-ASD subjects displaying hypoproliferation. NPCs were challenged with bFGF, and all hyperproliferative NPCs displayed blunted responses, while responses were increased in hypoproliferative cells. mRNA expression studies suggest that different pathways can result in similar proliferation phenotypes. Since 16pDel deletes MAPK3, P-ERK was measured. P-ERK is decreased in hyperproliferative but increased in hypoproliferative NPCs. While these P-ERK changes are not responsible for the phenotypes, P-ERK and bFGF response are inversely correlated with the defects. Finally, we analyzed iPSCs and discovered that 16pDel displays hyperproliferation, while idiopathic iPSCs were normal. These data suggest that NPC proliferation defects are common in ASD.

Keywords: 16p11.2 deletion; autism spectrum disorders; basic FGF; copy number variant; human NPCs; human iPSCs; macrocephaly; phospho-ERK signaling; proliferation.