Genetic aspects of autism spectrum disorders: Insights from animal models

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73 Scopus citations

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that display a triad of core behavioral deficits including restricted interests, often accompanied by repetitive behavior, deficits in language and communication, and an inability to engage in reciprocal social interactions. ASD is among the most heritable disorders but is not a simple disorder with a singular pathology and has a rather complex etiology. It is interesting to note that perturbations in synaptic growth, development, and stability underlie a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, including ASD, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and intellectual disability. Biological characterization of an increasing repertoire of synaptic mutants in various model organisms indicates synaptic dysfunction as causal in the pathophysiology of ASD. Our understanding of the genes and genetic pathways that contribute toward the formation, stabilization, and maintenance of functional synapses coupled with an in-depth phenotypic analysis of the cellular and behavioral characteristics is therefore essential to unraveling the pathogenesis of these disorders. In this review, we discuss the genetic aspects of ASD emphasizing on the well conserved set of genes and genetic pathways implicated in this disorder, many of which contribute to synapse assembly and maintenance across species. We also review how fundamental research using animal models is providing key insights into the various facets of human ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number58
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Volume8
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 24 2014

Keywords

  • Animal models
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cell adhesion molecules
  • Environment
  • Epigenetics
  • Genetics
  • Scaffolding proteins
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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