The configuration of methyl groups that modify DNA in sperm change as men get older. These alterations may help explain why children of older fathers are at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism.
Spectrum: Autism Research News
Children with autism have atypical patterns of epigenetic modifications — chemical tags on DNA that influence gene expression, suggests a study published 29 May in PLOS Genetics.
Mice with older fathers have different gene expression patterns in their brains than do mice with younger fathers, reports a study published 23 March in Molecular Autism. Many of the differences involve genes linked to autism.
Having one too many copies of MeCP2, the Rett syndrome gene, may block the growth of neuronal branches by interfering with the production of small pieces of RNA, according to a study published 10 March in Developmental Cell.
A Swedish twin study plans to search for the shared genetic and environmental origins of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which are often mistaken for each other.
In the brains of people with autism, certain genes are suppressed by a chemical tag that increases binding to MeCP2, the protein implicated in Rett syndrome. The findings were published 21 January in Translational Psychiatry.
A small fragment of RNA may regulate the expression of RORA, a gene implicated in many autism-related pathways, according to a study published 6 February in Scientific Reports.
Sequencing studies over the past few years have made a dramatic and unexpected discovery: Many of the mutations in individuals with autism are in genes that regulate chromatin, which helps package DNA in the cell nucleus, say Gerald Crabtree and Aryaman Shalizi.
Long pieces of RNA that do not code for protein have diverse and important roles in the cell and may contribute to autism risk, say Nikolaos Mellios and Mriganka Sur.