Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability characterized by deficits in verbal communications, impairments in social interactions, and repetitive behaviors. Several studies have indicated strong involvement of multigenic components in the etiology of autism. Linkage analyses and candidate gene search approaches so far have not identified any reliable susceptibility genes. We are using a proteomic approach to identify protein abnormalities due to aberrant gene expression in autopsied autism brains. In four of eight autism brains, we have found an increase in polarity (more acidic) of glyoxalase I (Glo1) by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. To identify the molecular change resulting in the shift of Glo1 polarity, we undertook sequencing of GLO1 gene. Direct sequencing of GLO1 gene/mRNA in these brains, has identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), C419A. The SNP causes an Ala111Glu change in the protein sequence. Population genetics of GLO1 C419A SNP studied in autism (71 samples) and normal and neurological controls (49 samples) showed significantly higher frequency for the A419 (allele frequency 0.6 in autism and 0.4 in controls, one-tailed Fisher's test P < 0.0079). Biochemical measurements have revealed a 38% decrease in Glo1 enzyme activity in autism brains (one-tailed t-test P < 0.026). Western blot analysis has also shown accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGE's) in autism brains. These data suggest that homozygosity for A419 GLO1 resulting in Glu111 is a predisposing factor in the etiology of autism.
(c) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.