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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology