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

June 6, 2012

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."

Explore further: Study shows that urinary mercury is not correlated with autism

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

Related Stories

Study shows that urinary mercury is not correlated with autism

February 15, 2012
A recent study finds no statistically significant correlation between urinary mercury levels and autism, according to a Feb. 15 report in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers find alterations of a single gene associated with intellectual disability, epilepsy and autistic features

October 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researchers, working with an international team of colleagues, have identified a gene that may play a role in causing a neurodevelopmental disorder that ...

Study explores link between smoking during pregnancy, autism

April 26, 2012
Women who smoke in pregnancy may be more likely to have a child with high-functioning autism, such as Asperger's Disorder, according to preliminary findings from a study by researchers involved in the U.S. autism surveillance ...

New research suggests birth weight plays a role in autism spectrum disorder

January 19, 2012
Although the genetic basis of autism is now well established, a growing body of research also suggests that environmental factors may play a role in this serious developmental disorder affecting nearly one in 100 children. ...

Recommended for you

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Females with autism show greater difficulty with day-to-day tasks than male counterparts

July 14, 2017
Women and girls with autism may face greater challenges with real world planning, organization and other daily living skills, according to a study published in the journal Autism Research.

Researchers investigate possible link between carnitine deficiency and autism

July 13, 2017
Researchers are always looking for new clues to the causes of autism, with special emphasis on prevention or treatment. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Arthur Beaudet has been following clinical and genetic clues in patients ...

How children look at mom's face is influenced by genetic factors and altered in autism

July 12, 2017
New research has uncovered compelling evidence that genetics plays a major role in how children look at the world and whether they have a preference for gazing at people's eyes and faces or at objects.

Oxytocin improves social abilities in some kids with autism, study finds

July 10, 2017
Children with autism showed improved social behavior when treated with oxytocin, a hormone linked to social abilities, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Children with low ...

Possible early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

June 29, 2017
Measuring a set of proteins in the blood may enable earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.