Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent a group of developmental disabilities with a strong genetic basis. The laboratory mouse is increasingly used as a model organism for ASD, and MGI, the Mouse Genome Informatics resource, is the primary model organism database for the laboratory mouse. MGI uses the Mammalian Phenotype (MP) ontology to describe mouse models of human diseases. Using bioinformatics tools including Phenologs, MouseNET, and the Ontological Discovery Environment, we tested data associated with MP terms to characterize new gene-phenotype associations related to ASD. Our integrative analysis using these tools identified numerous mouse genotypes that are likely to have previously uncharacterized autistic-like phenotypes. The genes implicated in these mouse models had considerable overlap with a set of over 300 genes recently associated with ASD due to small, rare copy number variation (Pinto et al., 2010). Prediction and characterization of autistic mutant mouse alleles assists researchers in studying the complex nature of ASD and provides a generalizable approach to candidate gene prioritization.
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