PsychENCODE Consortium: Epigenetic and Transcriptional Dysregulation in Autism Spectrum
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Our current understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) delineates a highly heritable, yet etiologically heterogeneous disease. Forward genetic approaches to find disease associated mutations or common variation have been successful and continue to offer considerable power. Yet, given the accumulating evidence for very significant heterogeneity and environmental influences, complementary approaches to classic forward genetics become necessary. Genetic polymorphism and mutation data to date have identified dozens of causal or contributory variants, yet our preliminary data from autism brain suggest that common molecular pathways are involved in a significant subset of cases. This convergence at the tissue level suggests that other mechanisms, specifically epigenetic changes, combined with genetic background, are contributing to such final common pathways. We further tested this hypothesis by taking a comprehensive and integrative genome-wide approach to assessing brain gene-expression, miRNA levels and the related, causal epigenetic mechanisms in ASD etiology.
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