Fish show autism-like gene expression in water with psychoactive pharmaceuticals

Psychoactive medications in water affect the gene expression profiles of fathead minnows in a way that mimics the gene expression patterns associated with autism spectrum disorder in genetically susceptible humans, according to research published June 6 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. These results suggest a potential environmental trigger for autism spectrum disorder in this vulnerable population, the authors write.

The researchers, led by Michael A. Thomas of Idaho State University, exposed the fish to three psychoactive pharmaceuticals – fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSR1; venlafaxine, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, and carbamazepine, used to control seizures – at concentrations comparable to the highest estimated environmental levels.

They found that the only affected were those associated with idiopathic autism spectrum disorders, caused by genetic susceptibility interacting with unknown environmental triggers. These results suggest that exposure to environmental psychoactive pharmaceuticals may play a role in the development of in genetically predisposed individuals.

Lead researcher Michael A. Thomas remarks, "While others have envisioned a causal role for psychotropic drugs in idiopathic autism, we were astonished to find evidence that this might occur at very low dosages, such as those found in aquatic systems."

More information: Thomas MA, Klaper RD (2012) Psychoactive Pharmaceuticals Induce Fish Gene Expression Profiles Associated with Human Idiopathic Autism. PLoS ONE 7(6): e32917. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032917

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Adults with autism at higher risk of sexual victimization

Aug 14, 2014

Adults with autism are at a higher risk of sexual victimization than adults without, due to lack of sex education, but with improved interventions that focus on sexual knowledge and skill building, the risk could be reduced, ...

Autism rates steady for two decades

Aug 14, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Queensland study has found no evidence of an increase in autism in the past 20 years, countering reports that the rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are on the rise.

Common variation genes behind the risk of autism

Aug 05, 2014

A number of relatively common gene variations combined may increase the risk of autism. These are the findings of a new study from Swedish and American researchers published in Nature Genetics.

User comments