Thursday, June 26, 2008

Autism and MicroRNAs

The Autism Knowledge Revolution continues with publication of a paper by University of California, Santa Barbara professor Kenneth S. Kosik "Heterogeneous Dysregulation of microRNAs across the Autism Spectrum” in the journal Neurogenetics. In addition to Koskik, senior author, other authors are Kawther Abu-Elnee, Tsunglin Liu, Francesca S. Gazzaniga, Yuhei Nishimura, Dennis P. Wall, Daniel H. Geschwind and Kaiqin Lao. The paper reports results of a study which found that "altered miRNA expression levels are observed in postmortem cerebellar cortex from autism patients, a finding which suggests that dysregulation of miRNAs may contribute to autism spectrum phenotype".

The University of California communications release MicroRNAs provide new insight in study of autism explains:

Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, is a link between DNA and protein. Some RNAs, according to Kosik, do not make a protein. One such type of RNA is called a microRNA because it’s very short. While there are 23,000 genes in the human body, there are about 1,000 different microRNAs.

The short RNA sequences can bind to many different, longer RNAs and inhibit them from making the protein, Kosik’s study found. “In this manner, they exert a broad regulatory control over the expression of many different proteins,” he said. And many of the genes they control are involved in brain development.

“It was of interest to find that various members of the microRNA family are frequently dysregulated in autism,” Kosik said. “This result points to a single control layer in the cell that can change in quite different ways with autism as the end result.”

Kosik indicates that, like recent studies showing mutations among small numbers of autism patients, this study also suggests there is a broad spectrum of diverse autism disorders:

“We can’t continue to look at this as a monolithic entity. This is not a single disease.”

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