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A ChIP-on-chip system for dissecting genetic pathways involved in developmental language disorders

United Kingdom

The Fisher lab has previously reported that mutations of a gene, called FOXP2, cause a severe developmental communication disorder. FOXP2 abnormalities lead to problems with articulating speech, accompanied by impairment in many aspects of language ability. The protein made by FOXP2 controls the behavior of cells by binding to DNA and switching on and/or off other genes (so-called "downstream targets"). FOXP2 provides an exciting starting point for uncovering neural processes that may be widely relevant for language-related disorders, including autism. In particular, the downstream targets of FOXP2 in the brain represent potential candidates for other genetic risk factors that might be involved in these disorders. The investigators have developed an innovative method for purifying stretches of DNA that are directly bound by FOXP2 protein in neuronal-like cells. They will use this to identify potential targets of FOXP2 and utilize mouse models of FOXP2 mutations to help analyze the biological roles of these genes. Significance: This work represents a novel approach for uncovering genetic risk factors in ASD, offering a complement to traditional strategies for studying genetics of ASD. It could also provide important new insights into neural pathways involved in language development.