Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene Mutation Is Linked to Autism-Like Symptoms in Mice

24.02.2010
When a gene implicated in human autism is disabled in mice, the rodents show learning problems and obsessive, repetitive behaviors, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

The researchers also report that a drug affecting a specific type of nerve function reduced the obsessive behavior in the animals, suggesting a potential way to treat repetitive behaviors in humans. The findings appear in the Feb. 24 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

“Clinically, this study highlights the possibility that some autism-related behaviors can be reversed through drugs targeting specific brain function abnormalities,” said Dr. Craig Powell, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at UT Southwestern and the study’s senior author.

“Understanding one abnormality that can lead to increased, repetitive motor behavior is not only important for autism, but also potentially for obsessive-compulsive disorder, compulsive hair-pulling and other disorders of excessive activity,” Dr. Powell said.

The study focused on a protein called neuroligin 1, or NL1, which helps physically hold nerve cells together so they can communicate better with one another. Mutations in proteins related to NL1 have been implicated in previous investigations to human autism and mental retardation.

In the latest study, the UT Southwestern researchers studied mice that had been genetically engineered to lack NL1. These mice were normal in many ways, but they groomed themselves excessively and were not as good at learning a maze as normal mice.

The altered mice showed weakened nerve signaling in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, and in another brain region involved in grooming.

When treated with a drug called D-cycloserine, which activates nerves in those brain regions, the excessive grooming lessened.

“Our goal was not to make an ‘autistic mouse’ but rather to understand better how autism-related genes might alter brain function that leads to behavioral abnormalities,” Dr. Powell said. “By studying mice that lack neuroligin-1, we hope to understand better how this molecule affects communication between neurons and how that altered communication affects behavior.

“This study is important because we were able to link the altered neuronal communication to behavioral effects using a specific drug to ‘treat’ the behavioral abnormality.”

Future studies, Dr. Powell said, will focus on understanding in more detail how NL1 operates in nerve cells.

Other UT Southwestern researchers participating in the study were co-lead authors Jacqueline Blundell, former postdoctoral researcher in neurology, and Dr. Cory Blaiss, postdoctoral researcher in neurology; Felipe Espinosa, senior research scientist in neurology; and graduate student Christopher Walz.

Researchers at Stanford University also contributed to this work.

The research was supported by Autism Speaks, the Simons Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, BRAINS for Autism, and the Hartwell Foundation.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics to learn more about clinical services in pediatrics, including neurology, at UT Southwestern. Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in psychiatry.

Aline McKenzie | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics
http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

More genes are active in high-performance maize

19.01.2018 | Life Sciences

How plants see light

19.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>