Autism involves a large-scale reduction in RNA editing

Multicolored image of the neural connections within a brain.

Enlarge (credit:
Erin Hecht, Dietrich Stout
)

Most genes encode proteins and are transcribed from DNA into RNA
before they’re translated into a protein. In complex cells,
however, there are lots of added layers of complexity. The RNA
typically has chunks cut out of it, has its start and end modified,
and more. Collectively, these changes are called RNA
processing.

Xinshu Xiao’s lab at UCLA studies RNA processing in all of its
many forms. RNA editing is a type of modification that involves the
alteration of RNA sequences by swapping in different bases. This
has the effect of increasing the number of different protein
products that can be generated from a single gene.

RNA editing is known to be important in nervous system
development, specifically the formation of connections between
nerve cells, called synapses. Synaptic development is abnormal in
autism spectrum disorders. So Xiao and her colleagues decided to
look at RNA editing in the brains of people with autism. They found
that RNA editing was reduced in multiple areas of the brain, and
multiple genes were effected.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Autism involves a large-scale reduction in RNA editing