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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Dec 15;20(24):4775-85. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr404. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

Tbx1: identification of a 22q11.2 gene as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorder in a mouse model.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Although twin studies indicate clear genetic bases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the precise mechanisms through which genetic variations causally result in ASD are poorly understood. Individuals with 3 Mb and nested 1.5 Mb hemizygosity of the chromosome 22q11.2 represent genetically identifiable cases of ASD. However, because more than 30 genes are deleted even in the minimal deletion cases of 22q11.2 deficiency, the individual 22q11.2 gene(s) responsible for ASD remain elusive. Here, we examined the impact of constitutive heterozygosity of Tbx1, a 22q11.2 gene, on the behavioral phenotypes of ASD and characterized the regional and cellular expression of its mRNA and protein in mice. Congenic Tbx1 heterozygous (HT) mice were impaired in social interaction, ultrasonic vocalization, memory-based behavioral alternation, working memory and thigmotaxis, compared with wild-type (WT) mice. These phenotypes were not due to non-specific alterations in olfactory function, exploratory behavior, motor movement or anxiety-related behavior. Tbx1 mRNA and protein were ubiquitously expressed throughout the brains of C57BL/6J mice, but protein expression was enriched in regions that postnatally retain the capacity of neurogenesis, and in fact, postnatally proliferating cells expressed Tbx1. In postnatally derived hippocampal culture cells of C57BL/6J mice, Tbx1 levels were higher during proliferation than during differentiation, and expressed in neural progenitor cells, immature and matured neurons and glial cells. Taken together, our data suggest that Tbx1 is a gene responsible for the phenotypes of 22q11.2 hemizygosity-associated ASD possibly through its role in diverse cell types, including postnatally and prenatally generated neurons.

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