A gene expression signature in developing Purkinje cells predicts autism and intellectual disability co-morbidity status.
Clifford H., Dulneva A., Ponting CP., Haerty W., Becker EBE.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disease whose underpinning molecular mechanisms and neural substrates are subject to intense scrutiny. Interestingly, the cerebellum has emerged as one of the key brain regions affected in ASD. However, the genetic and molecular mechanisms that link the cerebellum to ASD, particularly during development, remain poorly understood. To gain insight into the genetic and molecular mechanisms that might link the cerebellum to ASD, we analysed the transcriptome dynamics of a developing cell population highly enriched for Purkinje cells of the mouse cerebellum across multiple timepoints. We identified a single cluster of genes whose expression is positively correlated with development and which is enriched for genes associated with ASD. This ASD-associated gene cluster was specific to developing Purkinje cells and not detected in the mouse neocortex during the same developmental period, in which we identified a distinct temporally regulated ASD gene module. Furthermore, the composition of ASD risk genes within the two distinct clusters was significantly different in their association with intellectual disability (ID), consistent with the existence of genetically and spatiotemporally distinct endophenotypes of ASD. Together, our findings define a specific cluster of ASD genes that is enriched in developing PCs and predicts co-morbidity status.