From genotype to phenotype in autism: The role of adaptive physiology in flies and mice

  • Autism Research
Speaker Graeme Davis, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010 United States

Tea 4:15 – 5:00 pm
Lecture 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm

Autism Research

Autism Research lectures bring together scientists and scholars to discuss diverse and important topics related to autism. The lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

Video replay of this event will be available shortly. Please check back at a later date.

On November 20, 2019, Graeme Davis presented his research investigating the mechanisms that lie at the interface between neuronal homeostatic plasticity and ASD genetics.

His talk was part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

About the Lecture

The identification of rare de novo mutations that confer high risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has generated tremendous new molecular insight and progress. Yet, in cases where a known mutation confers risk, additional processes contribute to the phenotypic severity of ASD. Homeostatic plasticity has garnered considerable attention as an adaptive process of neurons that might be relevant and contribute to the spectrum of ASD severity in the human population. But virtually nothing is known at a mechanistic level regarding the interface of homeostatic plasticity and ASD genetics. Furthermore, there remains ongoing debate whether homeostatic plasticity is normally induced or whether it is impaired by gene mutations that confer risk for ASD.

In this lecture, Graeme Davis described a novel, unexpected genetic architecture that connects mutations in ASD-associated genes with the mechanisms of homeostatic plasticity in both invertebrate and mammalian nervous systems. He presented a novel means by which a diversity of ASD-associated risk genes may converge to disrupt homeostatic plasticity, thereby compromising the robustness of synaptic transmission. This information may be relevant to developing new therapeutic approaches that might someday alleviate ASD symptoms, regardless of the underlying genetic mutation(s) that confer risk for ASD.

About the Speaker

Graeme Davis received his B.A. at Williams College in 1989 and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 1994. He pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, under the guidance of Corey S. Goodman. In 1998, he began his independent academic career as an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine. Davis has remained at UCSF his entire career and is currently the Morris Hertzstein Distinguished Professor of Medicine and the former chairman of the department of biochemistry and biophysics.

He and his laboratory have pioneered the field of homeostatic plasticity, beginning with work published in the mid-1990s and continuing to this day. They have taken advantage of genome-scale forward genetics screens in model organisms to define a majority of genes currently known to control the homeostatic regulation of neurotransmitter release and ion channel gene expression. Recently, the Davis lab has turned its attention to the interface of homeostatic plasticity and the mechanisms of neurological and psychiatric disease.

Past Lectures

Phenotyping sleep

Emmanuel Mignot, M.D., Ph.D.Craig Reynolds Professor of Sleep Medicine, Stanford University

On September 16, 2020, Emmanuel Mignot discussed sleep biology as well as sleep disorders and their impact. He presented a link to what is known on the genetics of sleep and sleep disorders. He emphasized the need for large scale objective sleep recording studies with genomic and proteomic analysis to better understand the molecular pathways regulating sleep and circadian biology.

Progress in understanding the genetic basis of mental health

Benjamin Neale, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Associated Researcher, Broad Institute

On May 6, 2020, Benjamin Neale discussed progress in mapping genetic risk factors for autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Autism, autisms, or neurodevelopmental disorders?

Jason Lerch, Ph.D.Director of Preclinical Imaging, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, University of Oxford
Adjunct Scientist, Mouse Imaging Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children
Associate Professor in Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto

On January 29, 2020, Jason Lerch explored this question: What do modern ways of looking at brains and genes tell us about autism – or autisms – and its relation to attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other related disorders of brain development?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive SFARI funding announcements and news