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Mol Psychiatry. 2001 Mar;6(2):150-9.

Reelin gene alleles and haplotypes as a factor predisposing to autistic disorder.

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Laboratory of Neuroscience, Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, Libera Università Campus Bio-Medico, Via Longoni 83, I-00155 Rome, Italy.


Autistic disorder (MIM 209850) is currently viewed as a neurodevelopmental disease. Reelin plays a pivotal role in the development of laminar structures including the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum and of several brainstem nuclei. Neuroanatomical evidence is consistent with Reelin involvement in autistic disorder. In this study, we describe several polymorphisms identified using RNA-SSCP and DNA sequencing. Association and linkage were assessed comparing 95 Italian patients to 186 ethnically-matched controls, and using the transmission/disequilibrium test and haplotype-based haplotype relative risk in 172 complete trios from 165 families collected in Italy and in the USA. Both case-control and family-based analyses yield a significant association between autistic disorder and a polymorphic GGC repeat located immediately 5' of the reelin gene (RELN) ATG initiator codon, as well as with specific haplotypes formed by this polymorphism with two single-base substitutions located in a splice junction in exon 6 and within exon 50. Triplet repeats located in 5' untranslated regions (5'UTRs) are indicative of strong transcriptional regulation. Our findings suggest that longer triplet repeats in the 5'UTR of the RELN gene confer vulnerability to autistic disorder.

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