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Epigenetics. 2007 Apr-Jun;2(2):126-34. Epub 2007 Apr 30.

Epigenetics and Neural developmental disorders: Washington DC, September 18 and 19, 2006.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131 , USA.

Abstract

Neural developmental disorders, such as autism, Rett Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and Angelman syndrome manifest during early postnatal neural development. Although the genes responsible for some of these disorders have been identified, how the mutations of these genes affect neural development is currently unclear. Emerging evidence suggest that these disorders share common underlying defects in neuronal morphology, synaptic connectivity and brain plasticity. In particular, alterations in dendritic branching and spine morphology play a central role in the pathophysiology of most mental retardation disorders, suggesting that common pathways regulating neuronal function may be affected. Epigenetic modulations, mediated by DNA methylation, RNA-associated silencing, and histone modification, can serve as an intermediate process that imprints dynamic environmental experiences on the "fixed" genome, resulting in stable alterations in phenotypes. Disturbance in epigenetic regulations can lead to inappropriate expression or silencing of genes, causing an array of multi-system disorders and neoplasias. Rett syndrome, the most common form of mental retardation in young girls, is due to l mutation of MECP2, encoding a methylated DNA binding protein that translates DNA methylation into gene repression. Angelman syndrome is due to faulty genomic imprinting or maternal mutations in UBE3A. Fragile X Syndrome, in most cases, results from the hypermethylation of FMR1 promoter, hence the loss of expression of functional FMRP protein. Autism, with its complex etiology, may have strong epigenetic link. Together, these observations strongly suggest that epigenetic mechanisms may play a critical role in brain development and etiology of related disorders. This report summarizes the scientific discussions and major conclusions from a recent conference that aimed to gain insight into the common molecular pathways affected among these disorders and discover potential therapeutic targets that have been missed by looking at one disorder at a time.

PMID:
17965627
PMCID:
PMC2700626
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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