PTEN mutations in autism spectrum disorder and congenital hydrocephalus: developmental pleiotropy and therapeutic targets

Trends Neurosci. 2021 Dec;44(12):961-976. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2021.08.007. Epub 2021 Oct 5.


The lack of effective treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and congenital hydrocephalus (CH) reflects the limited understanding of the biology underlying these common neurodevelopmental disorders. Although ASD and CH have been extensively studied as independent entities, recent human genomic and preclinical animal studies have uncovered shared molecular pathophysiology. Here, we review and discuss phenotypic, genomic, and molecular similarities between ASD and CH, and identify the PTEN-PI3K-mTOR (phosphatase and tensin homolog-phosphoinositide 3-kinase-mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway as a common underlying mechanism that holds diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic promise for individuals with ASD and CH.

Keywords: mTOR; macrocephaly; neurodevelopmental disorders; rapamycin; ventriculomegaly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus* / genetics
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders*
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics


  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human