First glimpses of the neurobiology of autism spectrum disorder
Rapid progress in identifying the genes underlying autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has provided the substrate for a first wave of analyses into the underlying neurobiology. This review describes the consensus across these diverse analyses, highlighting two distinct sets of genes: 1) Genes that regulate chromatin and transcription, especially in cortical projection neurons and striatal medium spiny neurons during mid-fetal development; and 2) Genes involved in synapse development and function, especially during infancy and early childhood, and differentially expressed in the post mortem ASD brain. Both gene sets are also regulatory targets of the ASD genes CHD8 and FMRP. It remains to be seen whether these represent two independent paths to the ASD phenotype or two components of a common path.