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Chehalis, MA, United States

Sahin M.,rby Center For Neurobiology | Sur M.,Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Science (New York, N.Y.) | Year: 2015

Research in the genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism suggests that several hundred genes are likely risk factors for these disorders. This heterogeneity presents a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. Although the exact identity of many of the genes remains to be discovered, genes identified to date encode proteins that play roles in certain conserved pathways: protein synthesis, transcriptional and epigenetic regulation, and synaptic signaling. The next generation of research in neurodevelopmental disorders must address the neural circuitry underlying the behavioral symptoms and comorbidities, the cell types playing critical roles in these circuits, and common intercellular signaling pathways that link diverse genes. Results from clinical trials have been mixed so far. Only when we can leverage the heterogeneity of neurodevelopmental disorders into precision medicine will the mechanism-based therapeutics for these disorders start to unlock success. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Higashi-Kovtun M.E.,rby Center For Neurobiology | Higashi-Kovtun M.E.,Harvard University | Mosca T.J.,rby Center For Neurobiology | Mosca T.J.,Harvard University | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2010

Importin proteins act both at the nuclear pore to promote substrate entry and in the cytosol during signal trafficking. Here, we describe mutations in the Drosophila gene importin-β11, which has not previously been analyzed genetically. Mutants of importin-β11 died as late pupae from neuronal defects, and neuronal importin-β11 was present not only at nuclear pores but also in the cytosol and at synapses. Neurons lacking importin-β11 were viable and properly differentiated but exhibited discrete defects. Synaptic transmission was defective in adult photoreceptors and at larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Mutant photoreceptor axons formed grossly normal projections and synaptic terminals in the brain, but synaptic arbors on larval muscles were smaller while still containing appropriate synaptic components. Bone morphogenic protein (BMP) signaling was the apparent cause of the observed NMJ defects. Importin-β11 interacted genetically with the BMP pathway, and at mutant synaptic boutons, a key component of this pathway, phosphorylated mothers against decapentaplegic (pMAD), was reduced. Neuronal expression of an importin-β11 transgene rescued this phenotype as well as the other observed neuromuscular phenotypes. Despite the loss of synaptic pMAD, pMAD persisted in motor neuron nuclei, suggesting a specific impairment in the local function of pMAD. Restoring levels of pMAD to mutant terminals via expression of constitutively active type I BMP receptors or by reducing retrograde transport in motor neurons also restored synaptic strength and morphology. Thus, importin-β11 function interacts with the BMP pathway to regulate a pool of pMAD that must be present at the presynapse for its proper development and function. Copyright © 2010 the authors.

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