The process of synapse formation in the developing brain involves the production of a wide excess of synapses and a subsequent pruning back, perhaps strengthening of some and loss of others.14,15 In this case, neuronal activity thought to be mediating the processes of experience may result in chromatin modifications that lead to long-lasting effects on gene expression, brain development, and Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical circuit architecture. This mechanism is most important for postnatal synaptic
plasticity and during the synaptic pruning that begins at birth and becomes most widespread, continuing into adolescence. There are also a limited number of monogenic disorders that appear Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical to be associated with synaptic plasticity and autism. In particular, Fragile X syndrome (FXS) which is associated with a trinucleotide repeat expansion and loss-of-function mutation, is frequently associated with autism.16 Interestingly, in some reports FXS is associated with an increase in cerebral volume.17 Macrocephaly, increases in cerebral volume (generally greater than 2 standard SB939 concentration deviations above the mean for age, ethnicity, and gender), has a longstanding Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical association with autism.18 Estimates suggest that approximately 30% of children with autism have macrocephaly.19 However, there also appear to be a subset of children with autism who have microcephaly. Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical Mutations
in the gene PHOSPHATASE AND TENSIN HOMOLOG (PTEN) have been notably associated with autism and large head size,20 while Rett syndrome (RTT) (due to mutations in MeCP2 gene) is also frequently associated with autistic symptoms and also generally with microcephaly. What are the underlying neurodevelopmental mechanisms that cause brain overgrowth
or undergrowth? Of course, the timing of the emergence of this structural brain defect will greatly lead hypotheses regarding this question. For macrocephaly in idiopathic autism, there are proposals that the brain is generally normocephalic at birth and Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical demonstrates a postnatal brain overgrowth. Assuming that relative timing of the different steps of human brain development are preserved (Figure 1), then this timing would rule out mechanisms such as neurogenesis, and would include an overabundance of dendrites and axons, and/or a failure to prune. Morphologic examination in mouse models have Oxymatrine shown an excess of neuronal arborization in the Pten-mutant mouse21 and a impoverishment of neuronal arbors in the Mecp2-null mouse.22 Genomic programs underlying experience-dependent synapse plasticity utilize hundreds of genes An experimental proxy for studying the processes of synaptic plasticity involves studying the gene networks that are regulated by neuronal activity or more specifically, neuronal membrane depolarization in cell culture systems.