Synaptic Dysfunction in Human Neurons With Autism-Associated Deletions in PTCHD1-AS

Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Jan 15;87(2):139-149. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.07.014. Epub 2019 Jul 29.


Background: The Xp22.11 locus that encompasses PTCHD1, DDX53, and the long noncoding RNA PTCHD1-AS is frequently disrupted in male subjects with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the functional consequences of these genetic risk factors for ASD are unknown.

Methods: To evaluate the functional consequences of PTCHD1 locus deletions, we generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from unaffected control subjects and 3 subjects with ASD with microdeletions affecting PTCHD1-AS/PTCHD1, PTCHD1-AS/DDX53, or PTCHD1-AS alone. Function of iPSC-derived cortical neurons was assessed using molecular approaches and electrophysiology. We also compiled novel and known genetic variants of the PTCHD1 locus to explore the roles of PTCHD1 and PTCHD1-AS in genetic risk for ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Finally, genome editing was used to explore the functional consequences of deleting a single conserved exon of PTCHD1-AS.

Results: iPSC-derived neurons from subjects with ASD exhibited reduced miniature excitatory postsynaptic current frequency and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor hypofunction. We found that 35 ASD-associated deletions mapping to the PTCHD1 locus disrupted exons of PTCHD1-AS. We also found a novel ASD-associated deletion of PTCHD1-AS exon 3 and showed that exon 3 loss altered PTCHD1-AS splicing without affecting expression of the neighboring PTCHD1 coding gene. Finally, targeted disruption of PTCHD1-AS exon 3 recapitulated diminished miniature excitatory postsynaptic current frequency, supporting a role for the long noncoding RNA in the etiology of ASD.

Conclusions: Our genetic findings provide strong evidence that PTCHD1-AS deletions are risk factors for ASD, and human iPSC-derived neurons implicate these deletions in the neurophysiology of excitatory synapses and in ASD-associated synaptic impairment.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Excitatory synapses; Genetics; Induced pluripotent stem cells; Long noncoding RNA; Neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neurons
  • Synapses


  • Membrane Proteins
  • PTCHD1 protein, human