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Autism Res. 2019 Feb;12(2):200-211. doi: 10.1002/aur.2051. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

PAC1R Genotype to Phenotype Correlations in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Center for Neuroscience Research, Children's Research Institute, Children's National Health System, Washington, DC.
Children's Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Children's National Health System, Rockville, Maryland.
Center for Genetic Medicine, Children's Research Institute, Children's National Health System, Washington, DC.
Department of Psychology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC.
Department of Pediatrics and Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.


Amygdala dysfunction has been implicated in numerous neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous studies in mice and humans, respectively, have linked Pac1r/PAC1R function to social behavior and PTSD-susceptibility. Based on this connection to social and emotional processing and the central role played by the amygdala in ASD, we examined a putative role for PAC1R in social deficits in ASD and determined the pattern of gene expression in the developing mouse and human amygdala. We reveal that Pac1r/PAC1R is expressed in both mouse and human amygdala from mid-neurogenesis through early postnatal stages, critical time points when altered brain trajectories are hypothesized to unfold in ASD. We further find that parents of autistic children carrying a previously identified PTSD-risk genotype (CC) report greater reciprocal social deficits compared to those carrying the non-risk GC genotype. Additionally, by exploring resting-state functional connectivity differences in a subsample of the larger behavioral sample, we find higher functional connectivity between the amygdala and right middle temporal gyrus in individuals with the CC risk genotype. Thus, using multimodal approaches, our data reveal that the amygdala-expressed PAC1R gene may be linked to severity of ASD social phenotype and possible alterations in brain connectivity, therefore potentially acting as a modifier of amygdala-related phenotypes. Autism Res 2019, 12: 200-211 © 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: In this multimodal study across mouse and human, we examined expression patterns of Pac1r/PAC1R, a gene implicated in social behavior, and further explored whether a previously identified human PTSD-linked mutation in PAC1R can predict brain connectivity and social deficits in ASD. We find that PAC1R is highly expressed in the both the mouse and human amygdala. Furthermore, our human data suggest that PAC1R genotype is linked to severity of social deficits and functional amygdala connectivity in ASD.


PAC1R; amygdala; autism; genetic modifier; neuroimaging


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