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Spectrum: Autism Research News

High-throughput screen finds genes that link neurons

by  /  30 April 2014

This article is more than five years old. Autism research — and science in general — is constantly evolving, so older articles may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.

A new algorithm allows researchers to search among hundreds of genes to identify those involved in building synapses, the junctions that transmit signals between neurons, according to a report published 14 March in PLoS One1.

Synapses are made up of hundreds of proteins needed to organize their structure and transmit signals. Many mutations associated with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders are present in the genes that code for these proteins.

In an attempt to discover any new proteins involved in synapse formation, the researchers used nearly 600 small pieces of RNA to dampen the expression of more than 100 genes.  

They found two synaptic candidates: AXIN1, a member of the Wnt developmental pathway, and GRIN2C, which is involved in NMDA receptor-mediated transmission of excitatory signals. Both pathways have been implicated in autism.

  1. Nieland T.J. et al. PLoS One 9, e91744 (2014) PubMed