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Three gene networks discovered in autism, may present treatment targets
Date:6/6/2014

ion networks (GFINs)groups of disrupted genes acting on biological pathways. In patients with autism, the team found three GFINs in which gene variants perturb how genes interact with proteins. Of special interest to the study group was the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) signaling pathway, defined by the GRM family of genes that affects the neurotransmitter glutamate, a major chemical messenger in the brain regulating functions such as memory, learning, cognition, attention and behavior.

Hakonarson's team and other investigators previously reported that 10 percent or more of ADHD patients have CNVs in genes along the glutamate receptor metabotropic (GRM) pathway, while other teams have implicated GRM gene defects in schizophrenia.

Based on these findings, Hakonarson is planning a clinical trial in selected ADHD patients of a drug that activates the GRM pathway. "If drugs affecting this pathway prove successful in this subset of patients with ADHD, we may then test these drugs in autism patients with similar gene variants," he said.

In ASDs and other complex neurodevelopmental disorders, common gene variants often have very small individual effects, while very rare gene variants exert stronger effects. Many of these genes with very rare defects belong to gene families that may offer druggable targets.

The three gene families found in the current study have notable functional roles. The CALM1 network includes the calmodulin family of proteins, which regulate cell signaling and neurotransmitter function. The MXD-MYC-MAX gene network is involved in cancer development, and may underlie links reported between autism and specific types of cancer. Finally, members of the GRM gene family affect nerve transmission, neuron formation, and interconnections in the brainprocesses highly relevant to ASDs.

The functional activities identified in the current study are consistent with a recent multicenter study in which Hakonarso
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Contact: John Ascenzi
ascenzi@email.chop.edu
267-426-6055
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Source:Eurekalert

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