Networking in autism: leveraging genetic, biomarker and model system findings in the search for new treatments.

Veenstra-VanderWeele J, Blakely RD
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 37 (1): 196-212

PMID: 21937981 · PMCID: PMC3238072 · DOI:10.1038/npp.2011.185

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder affecting approximately 1% of children. ASD is defined by core symptoms in two domains: negative symptoms of impairment in social and communication function, and positive symptoms of restricted and repetitive behaviors. Available treatments are inadequate for treating both core symptoms and associated conditions. Twin studies indicate that ASD susceptibility has a large heritable component. Genetic studies have identified promising leads, with converging insights emerging from single-gene disorders that bear ASD features, with particular interest in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-linked synaptic plasticity mechanisms. Mouse models of these disorders are revealing not only opportunities to model behavioral perturbations across species, but also evidence of postnatal rescue of brain and behavioral phenotypes. An intense search for ASD biomarkers has consistently pointed to elevated platelet serotonin (5-HT) levels and a surge in brain growth in the first 2 years of life. Following a review of the diversity of ASD phenotypes and its genetic origins and biomarkers, we discuss opportunities for translation of these findings into novel ASD treatments, focusing on mTor- and 5-HT-signaling pathways, and their possible intersection. Paralleling the progress made in understanding the root causes of rare genetic syndromes that affect cognitive development, we anticipate progress in models systems using bona fide ASD-associated molecular changes that have the potential to accelerate the development of ASD diagnostics and therapeutics.

MeSH Terms (9)

Animals Autistic Disorder Biomarkers Disease Models, Animal Genetic Predisposition to Disease Humans Mice Psychotropic Drugs Signal Transduction

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