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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Jun 15;20(12):2297-307. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr122. Epub 2011 Mar 25.

SYN1 loss-of-function mutations in autism and partial epilepsy cause impaired synaptic function.

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Department of Experimental Medicine, National Institute of Neuroscience, University of Genova, Viale Benedetto XV 3, 16132 Genova, Italy.


Several genes predisposing to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) with or without epilepsy have been identified, many of which are implicated in synaptic function. Here we report a Q555X mutation in synapsin 1 (SYN1), an X-linked gene encoding for a neuron-specific phosphoprotein implicated in the regulation of neurotransmitter release and synaptogenesis. This nonsense mutation was found in all affected individuals from a large French-Canadian family segregating epilepsy and ASDs. Additional mutations in SYN1 (A51G, A550T and T567A) were found in 1.0 and 3.5% of French-Canadian individuals with autism and epilepsy, respectively. The majority of these SYN1 mutations were clustered in the proline-rich D-domain which is substrate of multiple protein kinases. When expressed in synapsin I (SynI) knockout (KO) neurons, all the D-domain mutants failed in rescuing the impairment in the size and trafficking of synaptic vesicle pools, whereas the wild-type human SynI fully reverted the KO phenotype. Moreover, the nonsense Q555X mutation had a dramatic impact on phosphorylation by MAPK/Erk and neurite outgrowth, whereas the missense A550T and T567A mutants displayed impaired targeting to nerve terminals. These results demonstrate that SYN1 is a novel predisposing gene to ASDs, in addition to epilepsy, and strengthen the hypothesis that a disturbance of synaptic homeostasis underlies the pathogenesis of both diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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