SFARI Investigator Liqun Luo discusses the neurodevelopmental disorder Smith-Magenis syndrome and his lab’s efforts to understand its underlying biology.
Huda Zoghbi and Stelios Smirnakis investigate how opposing molecular deficits in MeCP2 duplication and Rett syndromes lead to similar behavioral phenotypes.
One hallmark of several autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is altered protein synthesis in the brain, which results in synaptic dysfunction and disease pathology. Genetic variations in PTEN, TSC1, TSC2, FMR1, SHANK3 and NLGN3, and microdeletions at 16p11.2 have all been linked to ASDs, and mouse models of these mutations exhibit alterations in a form of synaptic plasticity called metabotropic glutamate receptor-induced long-term depression (mGluR-LTD). Many studies support a role for mGluR-LTD in learning, with alterations in mGluR-LTD linked to a variety of neurological disease states, including ASDs. These studies have also demonstrated that the proper functioning of mGluR-LTD relies on rapid synthesis of proteins, leading to the suggestion that aberrations in mRNA translation may contribute to disease pathology. However, it remains unclear what particular mRNAs are involved in this process.
Using fMRI in typically developing children, Vinod Menon finds one’s mother’s voice activates a network of brain regions predictive of a child’s social communication skills.
Chromosomal copy number variations (CNVs) are common genetic abnormalities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and have been identified in approximately 10 percent of individuals with ASD. Currently, there is a knowledge gap in the understanding of the molecular and synaptic mechanisms underlying CNV-associated ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and related neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, are thought to involve alterations in neural circuitry in different brain regions, including the hippocampus, an area critical for memory formation. Most studies on the role of the hippocampus in learning and memory have focused on information flow through the hippocampal CA3, CA1 and dentate gyrus subregions. Much less is known about the hippocampal CA2 region, a relatively small area that is altered in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The CA2 region is of particular interest in ASD because it has high levels of receptors for the social hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which have been implicated in ASD.