Accumulating data indicate that there is significant genetic heterogeneity underlying the etiology in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some rare and highly-penetrant gene variants and copy number variation (CNV) regions including NLGN3, NLGN4, NRXN1, SHANK2, SHANK3, PTCHD1, 1q21.1, maternally-inherited duplication of 15q11-q13, 16p11.2, amongst others, have been identified to be involved in ASD. Genome-wide association studies have identified other apparently low risk loci and in some other cases, ASD arises as a co-morbid phenotype with other medical genetic conditions (e.g. fragile X). The progress studying the genetics of ASD has largely been accomplished using genomic analyses of germline-derived DNA. Here, we used gene and miRNA expression profiling using cell-line derived total RNA to evaluate possible transcripts and networks of molecules involved in ASD. Our analysis identified several novel dysregulated genes and miRNAs in ASD compared with controls, including HEY1, SOX9, miR-486 and miR-181b. All of these are involved in nervous system development and function and some others, for example, are involved in NOTCH signaling networks (e.g. HEY1). Further, we found significant enrichment in molecules associated with neurological disorders such as Rett syndrome and those associated with nervous system development and function including long-term potentiation. Our data will provide a valuable resource for discovery purposes and for comparison to other gene expression-based, genome-wide DNA studies and other functional data.
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