Research by Valerie Hu and colleagues, recently published in Genome Medicine, suggests that microRNAs (miRNAs) have a role in the gene expression changes which can underlie autistic spectrum disorders.
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental in origin and often include behavioral and language abnormalities. In their article “Investigation of post-transcriptional gene regulatory networks associated with autism spectrum disorders by microRNA expression profiling of lymphoblastoid cell lines”, Hu and colleagues suggest that expression changes in 43 miRNAs are seen in patients with this condition. These miRNAs may regulate genes which have previously been linked to roles in autism and other comorbid disorders.
A recent article from the same group, published in The FASEB Journal, suggests that differential methylation may also have a role in autism, providing further evidence for an epigenetic origin of autistic spectrum disorders. With evidence growing for a genetic overlap between autism and other conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, it will be interesting to consider whether the same factors are at work in other neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions.