For citation purposes: LaSalle JM. Autism genes keep turning up chromatin. OA Autism 2013 Jun 19;1(2):14.


Causes & Prevalence

Autism genes keep turning up chromatin

JM LaSalle

Authors affiliations

Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Genome Center, MIND Institute, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

*Corresponding author Email:



Autism-spectrum disorders are complex genetic disorders collectively characterised by impaired social interactions and language as well as repetitive and restrictive behaviours. Of the hundreds of genes implicated in autism-spectrum disorders, those encoding proteins acting at neuronal synapses have been most characterised by candidate gene studies. However, recent unbiased genome-wide analyses have turned up a multitude of novel candidate genes encoding nuclear factors implicated in chromatin remodelling, histone demethylation, histone variants and the recognition of DNA methylation. Furthermore, the chromatin landscape of the human genome has been shown to influence the location of de novo mutations observed in autism-spectrum disorders as well as the landscape of DNA methylation underlying neurodevelopmental and synaptic processes. Understanding the interactions of nuclear chromatin proteins and DNA with signal transduction pathways and environmental influences in the developing brain will be critical to understanding the relevance of these autism-spectrum disorder candidate genes and continued uncovering of the ‘roots’ of autism aetiology. The aim of this review was to discuss the relevance of chromatin in autism-spectrum disorders.


Considering the many roles that chromatin plays at the interface of genetic and environmental factors in regulating gene expression and epigenetic states, it is perhaps not surprising that genomic approaches keep uncovering chromatin-encoding genes.

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