, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 589-593,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 05 Sep 2012

Aberrant Expression of Long Noncoding RNAs in Autistic Brain


The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have a significant hereditary component, but the implicated genetic loci are heterogeneous and complex. Consequently, there is a gap in understanding how diverse genomic aberrations all result in one clinical ASD phenotype. Gene expression studies from autism brain tissue have demonstrated that aberrantly expressed protein-coding genes may converge onto common molecular pathways, potentially reconciling the strong heritability and shared clinical phenotypes with the genomic heterogeneity of the disorder. However, the regulation of gene expression is extremely complex and governed by many mechanisms, including noncoding RNAs. Yet no study in ASD brain tissue has assessed for changes in regulatory long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), which represent a large proportion of the human transcriptome, and actively modulate mRNA expression. To assess if aberrant expression of lncRNAs may play a role in the molecular pathogenesis of ASD, we profiled over 33,000 annotated lncRNAs and 30,000 mRNA transcripts from postmortem brain tissue of autistic and control prefrontal cortex and cerebellum by microarray. We detected over 200 differentially expressed lncRNAs in ASD, which were enriched for genomic regions containing genes related to neurodevelopment and psychiatric disease. Additionally, comparison of differences in expression of mRNAs between prefrontal cortex and cerebellum within individual donors showed ASD brains had more transcriptional homogeneity. Moreover, this was also true of the lncRNA transcriptome. Our results suggest that further investigation of lncRNA expression in autistic brain may further elucidate the molecular pathogenesis of this disorder.