Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Novel mouse model for autism yields clues to a 50-year-old mystery

21.03.2012
Early disruptions in serotonin signaling in the brain may contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other "enduring effects on behavior," Vanderbilt University researchers report.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that carries signals across the synapse, or gap between nerve cells. The supply of serotonin is regulated by the serotonin transporter (SERT). In 2005, a team of Vanderbilt researchers led by Randy Blakely and James Sutcliffe identified rare genetic variations in children with ASD that disrupt SERT function.

In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers report the creation of a mouse model that expressed the most common of these variations.

The change is a very small one in biochemical terms, yet it appears to cause SERT in the brain to go into "overdrive" and restrict the availability of serotonin at synapses.

"The SERT protein in the brain of our mice appears to exhibit the exaggerated function and lack of regulation we saw using cell models," said Blakely, director of the Vanderbilt Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research.

"Remarkably, these mice show changes in social behavior and communication from early life that may parallel aspects of ASD," noted first author Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, assistant professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Pharmacology.

The researchers conclude that a lack of serotonin during development may lead to long-standing changes in the way the brain is "wired."

In 1961, investigators at Yale discovered that as many as 30 percent of children with autism have elevated blood levels of serotonin, a finding described as "hyperserotonemia."

Since then, these findings have been replicated many times. Indeed, hyperserotonemia is the most consistently reported biochemical finding in autism, and is a highly inherited trait. Yet, the cause or significance of this "bio-marker" has remained shrouded in mystery.

Until now. In the current study, Veenstra-VanderWeele, Blakely and their colleagues showed that they could produce hyperserotonemia in mice that express a variant of a human SERT gene associated with autism.

Because the genetic change makes the transporter more active, higher levels of serotonin accumulate in platelets and therefore in the bloodstream. In the brain, overactive transporters should have the opposite effect – lowering serotonin levels at the synapse and producing behavioral changes relevant to autism. That's exactly what the researchers observed.

Of course, no mouse model can completely explain or reproduce the human condition. Neither does a single genetic variation cause autism. Experts believe the wide spectrum of autistic behaviors represents a complex web of interactions between many genes and environmental factors.

But animal models are critical to exploring more deeply the basis for the developmental changes that are observed in ASD. The scientists are using these mice to explore how altered brain serotonin levels during development may produce long-lasting changes in behavior and impact the risk for autism.

Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio contributed to the study.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the advocacy organization Autism Speaks and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Bill Snyder | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vanderbilt.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New bioinformatics platform for the genome-based taxonomical classification of bacteria and archaea
21.05.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

nachricht 3D technology lets us look into the distant past
21.05.2019 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Planetologists explain how the formation of the moon brought water to Earth

21.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer

21.05.2019 | Earth Sciences

New bioinformatics platform for the genome-based taxonomical classification of bacteria and archaea

21.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>