Molecular Changes in Prader-Willi Syndrome Neurons Reveals Clues About Increased Autism Susceptibility.


Victor, A.K., Donaldson, M., Johnson, D., Miller, W., Reiter, L.T.

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Background: Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by hormonal dysregulation, obesity, intellectual disability, and behavioral problems. Most PWS cases are caused by paternal interstitial deletions of 15q11.2-q13.1, while a smaller number of cases are caused by chromosome 15 maternal uniparental disomy (PW-UPD). Children with PW-UPD are at higher risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than the neurotypical population. In this study, we used expression analysis of PW-UPD neurons to try to identify the molecular cause for increased autism risk.

Methods: Dental pulp stem cells (DPSC) from neurotypical control and PWS subjects were differentiated to neurons for mRNA sequencing. Significantly differentially expressed transcripts among all groups were identified. Downstream protein analysis including immunocytochemistry and immunoblots were performed to confirm the transcript level data and pathway enrichment findings.

Results: We identified 9 transcripts outside of the PWS critical region (15q11.2-q13.1) that may contribute to core PWS phenotypes. Moreover, we discovered a global reduction in mitochondrial transcripts in the PW-UPD + ASD group. We also found decreased mitochondrial abundance along with mitochondrial aggregates in the cell body and neural projections of +ASD neurons.

Conclusion: The 9 transcripts we identified common to all PWS subtypes may reveal PWS specific defects during neurodevelopment. Importantly, we found a global reduction in mitochondrial transcripts in PW-UPD + ASD neurons versus control and other PWS subtypes. We then confirmed mitochondrial defects in neurons from individuals with PWS at the cellular level. Quantification of this phenotype supports our hypothesis that the increased incidence of ASD in PW-UPD subjects may arise from mitochondrial defects in developing neurons.

FPWR Grant:

Gene Expression Analysis in PWS Subject Derived Dental Pulp Stem Cell Neurons