Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation: Inner structure of nerve synapses defective in patients

Date:
May 26, 2010
Source:
University Hospital Heidelberg
Summary:
Researchers in Germany have discovered previously unknown mutations in autistic and mentally impaired patients in what is known as the SHANK2 gene, a gene that is partially responsible for linking nerve cells.

Researchers working with Professor Gudrun Rappold, Director of the Department of Molecular Human Genetics at Heidelberg University Hospital, have discovered previously unknown mutations in autistic and mentally impaired patients in what is known as the SHANK2 gene, a gene that is partially responsible for linking nerve cells.

However, a single gene mutation is not always enough to trigger the illness. In some cases, a certain threshold of mutation must be exceeded. The researchers conclude from their results that a correct inner structure of the nerve cell synapses is necessary to enable the normal development of language, social competence, and cognitive capacity. Essential for the success of the project were the studies by the Heidelberg research team with the doctoral student Simone Berkel and collaboration with a Canadian research team headed by Steve Scherer.

The study has already been published online in the leading scientific journal Nature Genetics.

Autism is a congenital perception and information-processing disorder of the brain that is often associated with low intelligence, but also with above-average intelligence. The disease is characterized by limited social communication and stereotypical or ritualized behavior. Men are affected much more frequently than women. Autism and mental retardation can occur together but also independently of one another and are determined to a great extent by hereditary factors. Some of the responsible genes have already been identified but the precise genetic mechanisms have not yet been explained.

Genetic makeup of hundreds of patients analyzed

Professor Rappold and her team focused their studies on the SHANK2 gene, which encodes a structural protein at the nerve cell synapses. It is responsible for the mesh structure of the basic substance in the postsynapse. Only when the postsynapse is properly structured can nerve impulses be correctly transmitted. The researchers analyzed the genetic material of a total of 396 patients with autism and 184 patients with mental retardation. They found different mutations in their SHANK2 genes in the area of individual base pairs, but also variants in the number of gene copies. The mutations led to varying degrees of symptoms. None of the observed gene variants occurred in healthy control persons. "Apparently an intact postsynaptic structure is especially important for the development of cognitive functions, language, and social competence," explained Professor Rappold.

Identical mutations as the cause of different diseases

Some of the genetic mutations identified were new occurrences of mutations that were not inherited from the parents, but some of the mutations were also found in one parent. Since there are also healthy carriers of gene variants, we must assume that a certain threshold of gene mutations must be exceeded for the disease to appear. "Moreover, the same mutation can be present in an autistic patient with normal intelligence and in a mentally impaired patient," said Professor Rappold. There is some overlap in the clinical symptoms of mental retardation and autism, which can now be explained by a common genetic cause.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Hospital Heidelberg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Simone Berkel, Christian R Marshall, Birgit Weiss, Jennifer Howe, Ralph Roeth, Ute Moog, Volker Endris, Wendy Roberts, Peter Szatmari, Dalila Pinto, Michael Bonin, Angelika Riess, Hartmut Engels, Rolf Sprengel, Stephen W Scherer, Gudrun A Rappold. Mutations in the SHANK2 synaptic scaffolding gene in autism spectrum disorder and mental retardation. Nature Genetics, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/ng.589

Cite This Page:

University Hospital Heidelberg. "Gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation: Inner structure of nerve synapses defective in patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525103933.htm>.
University Hospital Heidelberg. (2010, May 26). Gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation: Inner structure of nerve synapses defective in patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525103933.htm
University Hospital Heidelberg. "Gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation: Inner structure of nerve synapses defective in patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525103933.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Cardiac experts are testing a new experimental device designed to eliminate major surgery and still keep the heart on track. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) More than 269 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Many of them will need surgery and radiation, but there’s a new simple way to reconstruct tissue using a patient’s own fat. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood Clots in Kids

Blood Clots in Kids

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Every year, up to 200,000 Americans die from a blood clot that travels to their lungs. You’ve heard about clots in adults, but new research shows kids can get them too. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Doctors have used radio frequency ablation or RFA to reduce neck and back pain for years. But now, that same technique is providing longer-term relief for patients with severe knee pain. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins