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Scripps Florida scientists find connection between gene mutation, key symptoms of autism
Date:4/25/2014

zed overgrowth within the brain, and whether changes in brain growth are associated with broad or selective deficits in tests of autism-relevant behaviors in genetically altered mice. The team tested mice for autism spectrum disorder-related behaviors including mood, anxiety, intellectual, and circadian rhythm and/or sleep abnormalities.

The researchers found that Pten mutant mice showed altered social behavior, but few other changesa more subtle change than would have been predicted given broad expression and critical cellular function of the gene.

Intriguingly, some of the more subtle impairments were sex-specific. In addition to social impairments, males with the mutated gene showed abnormalities related to repetitive behavior and mood/anxiety, while females exhibited additional circadian activity and emotional learning problems.

The results raise the question of how mutations in PTEN, a general regulator of growth, can have relatively selective effects on behavior and cognitive development. One idea is that PTEN mutations may desynchronize the normal pattern of growth in key cell typesthe study points to dopamine neuronsthat are relevant for social behavior.

"Timing is everything," Page said. "Connections have to form in the right place at the right time for circuits to develop normally. Circuitry involved in social behavior may turn out to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of poorly coordinated growth."


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Contact: Eric Sauter
esauter@scripps.edu
267-337-3859
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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