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The disruption of Celf6, a gene identified by translational profiling of serotonergic neurons, results in autism-related behaviors.

The immense molecular diversity of neurons challenges our ability to understand the genetic and cellular etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Leveraging knowledge from neurobiology may help parse the genetic complexity: identifying genes important for a circuit that mediates a particular symptom of a disease may help identify polymorphisms that contribute to risk for the disease as a whole. The serotonergic system has long been suspected in disorders that have symptoms of repetitive behaviors and resistance to change, including autism. We generated a bacTRAP mouse line to permit translational profiling of serotonergic neurons. From this, we identified several thousand serotonergic-cell expressed transcripts, of which 174 were highly enriched, including all known markers of these cells. Analysis of common variants near the corresponding genes in the AGRE collection implicated the RNA binding protein CELF6 in autism risk. Screening for rare variants in CELF6 identified an inherited premature stop codon in one of the probands. Subsequent disruption of Celf6 in mice resulted in animals exhibiting resistance to change and decreased ultrasonic vocalization as well as abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. This work provides a reproducible and accurate method to profile serotonergic neurons under a variety of conditions and suggests a novel paradigm for gaining information on the etiology of psychiatric disorders.

Pubmed ID: 23407934


  • Dougherty JD
  • Maloney SE
  • Wozniak DF
  • Rieger MA
  • Sonnenblick L
  • Coppola G
  • Mahieu NG
  • Zhang J
  • Cai J
  • Patti GJ
  • Abrahams BS
  • Geschwind DH
  • Heintz N


The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Publication Data

February 13, 2013

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: 1U24MH081810
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: 4R00NS067239-03
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: P30 HD062171
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: P30 HD062171
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: R00 NS067239
  • Agency: NIEHS NIH HHS, Id: R01 ES022181
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: R01 MH094714
  • Agency: NIGMS NIH HHS, Id: T32 GM007067
  • Agency: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Id:

Mesh Terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Maze Learning
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protein Modification, Translational
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Ribosomes
  • Serotonergic Neurons
  • Serotonin
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Smell
  • Social Behavior
  • Vocalization, Animal