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Study of neuroligins in mice as animal model for autism

Study of neuroligins in mice as animal model for autism

Objective

Autism is one of the most frequent cognitive disorders diagnosed in childhood. It affects more than 1 child in 1000, without any pharmacological treatment available to prevent or reduce their pain. Previous work of the applicant has already characterised several predisposition genes to this syndrome. Using classical human genetics approaches, an association between a gene coding an ionotropic glutamate receptor (GRIK2) and autism was identified. Moreover, two mutations in genes encoding neuroligins, NL GN3 and NLGN4, segregating in two independent families with autistic disorders, have been detected.

Neuroligins are cell adhesion molecules that may contribute to the induction of synapse formation between neurons. They are located at the postsynaptic membrane of glutamatergic synapses, where they interact with beta-neurexins to form a transsynaptic dimeric complex. Recent results strongly suggest that dysfunction of glutamatergic synapses may be linked to a predisposition to autism and that autism could be due to an abnormality of neural networks. The proposed project intends to modify the expression pattern of neuroligins in mice, in order to examine the physiological significance of such changes on neuronal network, focusing on the role of Nlgn3 and Nlgn4 in brain morphology, function and animal behaviour.

This approach will shed light on the role of neuroligins during synaptogenesis and will point to molecular mechanisms involved in autistic disorders. The Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine (Goettingen) is a high-quality research institution to carry out such a project. Undertaking this project in a leading European laboratory allows the applicant to consolidate existing research skills, learn new techniques and qualify him for an independent research career at the end of his training.

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Coordinator

MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN E.V.

Address

Hofgartenstrasse 8
Muenchen

Germany

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 11409

  • Start date

    1 June 2006

  • End date

    31 May 2008

Funded under:

FP6-MOBILITY

Coordinated by:

MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN E.V.

Germany