ADNP Plays a Key Role in Autophagy: From Autism to Schizophrenia and Alzheimer's Disease

Bioessays. 2017 Nov;39(11). doi: 10.1002/bies.201700054. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP), discovered in our laboratory in 1999, has been characterized as a master gene vital for mammalian brain formation. ADNP de novo mutations in humans result in a syndromic form of autism-like spectrum disorder (ASD), including cognitive and motor deficits, the ADNP syndrome (Helsmoortel-Van Der Aa). One of the most important cellular processes associated with ADNP is the autophagy pathway, recently discovered by us as a key player in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In this regard, given the link between the microtubule and autophagy systems, the ADNP microtubule end binding protein motif, namely, the neuroprotective NAP (NAPVSIPQ), was found to enhance autophagy while protecting microtubules and augmenting ADNP's association with both systems. Thus, linking autophagy and ADNP is proposed as a major target for intervention in brain diseases from autism to Alzheimer's disease (AD) and our findings introduce autophagy as a possible novel target for treating schizophrenia.

Keywords: ADNP; NAP; autism; autophagy; schizophrenia; sexual divergence.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autophagy*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • ADNP protein, human
  • Adnp protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins