RNA binding proteins are key players in posttranscriptional regulation and have been implicated in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Here, we report a significant burden of heterozygous, likely gene-disrupting variants in CSDE1 (encoding a highly constrained RNA binding protein) among patients with autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities. Analysis of 17 patients identifies common phenotypes including autism, intellectual disability, language and motor delay, seizures, macrocephaly, and variable ocular abnormalities. HITS-CLIP revealed that Csde1-binding targets are enriched in autism-associated gene sets, especially FMRP targets, and in neuronal development and synaptic plasticity-related pathways. Csde1 knockdown in primary mouse cortical neurons leads to an overgrowth of the neurites and abnormal dendritic spine morphology/synapse formation and impaired synaptic transmission, whereas mutant and knockdown experiments in Drosophila result in defects in synapse growth and synaptic transmission. Our study defines a new autism-related syndrome and highlights the functional role of CSDE1 in synapse development and synaptic transmission.
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