Using a novel analysis of the interactions among related genes, Duke University Medical Center researchers have uncovered some of the first evidence that complex genetic interactions account for autism risk. The Duke team found that the brain mechanism that normally stops or slows nerve impulses contributes to the disease.
The teams findings implicate the so-called GABA receptor genes, which are genes that code for key components of "off switches" in the brains neurons. GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter – a chemical that one neuron fires at receptors on another neuron to trigger a response – in this case an inhibitory response. GABA receptors are protein switches nestled in nerve cell membranes that are triggered by GABA to cause such inhibition.
Importantly, the study found that the GABA brain system most likely exerts its influence via complex gene-gene interactions.
Kendall Morgan | EurekAlert!
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