Autism-associated mutation in Hevin/Sparcl1 induces endoplasmic reticulum stress through structural instability

Sci Rep. 2022 Jul 13;12(1):11891. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-15784-5.


Hevin is a secreted extracellular matrix protein that is encoded by the SPARCL1 gene. Recent studies have shown that Hevin plays an important role in regulating synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Mutations in the SPARCL1 gene increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the molecular basis of how mutations in SPARCL1 increase the risk of ASD is not been fully understood. In this study, we show that one of the SPARCL1 mutations associated with ASD impairs normal Hevin secretion. We identified Hevin mutants lacking the EF-hand motif through analyzing ASD-related mice with vulnerable spliceosome functions. Hevin deletion mutants accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), leading to the activation of unfolded protein responses. We also found that a single amino acid substitution of Trp647 with Arg in the EF-hand motif associated with a familial case of ASD causes a similar phenotype in the EF-hand deletion mutant. Importantly, molecular dynamics (MD) simulation revealed that this single amino acid substitution triggers exposure of a hydrophobic amino acid to the surface, increasing the binding of Hevin with molecular chaperons, BIP. Taken together, these data suggest that the integrity of the EF-hand motif in Hevin is crucial for proper folding and that ASD-related mutations impair the export of Hevin from the ER. Our data provide a novel mechanism linking a point mutation in the SPARCL1 gene to the molecular and cellular characteristics involved in ASD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder* / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mutation


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Sparcl1 protein, mouse