It is estimated that three to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States have autism – and the number of diagnosed cases is rising.
Autism is one of a group of series developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood, usually before age 3. Through symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.
It's not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism, a real increase in the number of cases, or both.
That's why researchers at Case Western Reserve University, led by Gary Landreth, a professor of neurosciences and neurology at the School of Medicine, have pulled together a number of recent findings that link a common genetic pathway with a number of human syndromes and a newly-recognized genetic form of autism, publishing them in the January 29, 2009, issue of the prestigious journal Neuron.
Landreth, whose research team is made up of partners from the Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania, says his lab in particular has been researching the class of enzymes called ERKs (extracellular signal regulated kinase), which are the central elements of a major intracellular signal transduction pathway. His research team has found that in animal models the ERKs – known as ERK 1 and ERK 2 – are required for normal brain, heart and facial development.
This common genetic pathway that acts to regulate the ERK signaling cascade is particularly important in brain development, learning, memory and cognition. It has been recently reported that mutation or deletion of elements within this signaling pathway leads to developmental syndromes in humans that are associated with impaired cognitive function and autism.
According to Landreth, these syndromes, called neuro-craniofacial-cardiac syndromes (NCFCs), encompass a group of syndromes also typified by cardiac, craniofacial and neurological defects. Current research has found that they arise from mutations in the intracellular signaling pathway that regulates ERKs.
"Very recently it was discovered that 1 percent of autistic children have either a loss or duplication in a region of Chromosome 16 that encompasses the gene for ERK 1," said Landreth, who also serves as director of the School of Medicine's Alzheimer's Research Laboratory. "What no one else realized is that the autistic children also have craniofacial and cardiac defects just like those children with NCFC syndromes."
Thus, Landreth says, mutations within the ERK signaling pathway appears to be a common cause for NCFC syndromes and those children with autism due to genetic changes in chromosome 16.
"Unexplained is why loss of ERK 1 is associated with autism and other ERK pathway mutations cause mental retardation and similar diseases," he said. "Our contribution to the autism story is that we recognized it was just like the NCFC syndromes and we are hypothesizing that they all arise from defects within a single genetic pathway."
Laura Massie | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > ASD > Autism > ERK > ERK signaling cascade > NCFC > NCFC syndromes > Neuron > autism spectrum disorders > chromosome 16 > extracellular signal regulated kinase > genetic pathway > heart and facial development > intracellular signal transduction pathway > signaling pathway > single genetic pathway
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences