Researchers find possible link between autism and nuclear receptor protein LXRβ

Research by University of Houston scientists discovered a possible link between nuclear receptor protein LXRβ (Liver X receptor Beta) and autism spectrum disorder. They found that nuclear receptor LXRβ deletion causes poor development of dentate gyrus, a part of brain’s hippocampus. The dentate gyrus, or DG, is responsible for emotion and memory and is known to be involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

This study is led by Margaret Warner and Jan-Åke Gustafsson. The results are published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”Our findings suggest early changes in dentate gyrus neurogenesis ultimately provide an aberrant template upon which to build the circuitry that is involved in normal social function,” said Warner.

Researchers conducted an animal study using LXRβ-deficient mice. Behavior analysis of these mice showed autistic-like behaviors, including social interaction deficits and repetitive behavior.”Knocking out LXRβ led to autistic behavior and reduced cognitive flexibility,” said Warner. “In this paper, we share our findings that that deletion of the LXRβ (Liver X receptor Beta) causes hypoplasia or underdevelopment in the dentate gyrus and autistic-like behaviors, including abnormal social interaction and repetitive behavior.”

Citation: Cai, Yulong, Xiaotong Tang, Xi Chen, Xin Li, Ying Wang, Xiaohang Bao, Lian Wang, Dayu Sun, Jinghui Zhao, Yan Xing, Margaret Warner, Haiwei Xu, Jan-Åke Gustafsson, and Xiaotang Fan. “Liver X receptor β regulates the development of the dentate gyrus and autistic-like behavior in the mouse.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018, 201800184. doi:10.1073/pnas.1800184115.

Adapted from press release by the University of Houston.