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Modeling and Pharmacologic Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Drosophila

State/Province Full: 
New York
United States

It is important to develop laboratory based models of autism, since such models can be readily used to generate and test hypotheses, investigate, characterize and manipulate biological mechanisms in much more detail that would be possible using human subjects. Drosophila, the fruit fly, is such an advantageous experimental model and a high throughput system. The present study plans to create the Drosophila equivalent of the genetic abnormalities that underlie syndromes such as genes Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, tuberous sclerosis complex type 1, tuberous sclerosis complex type 2 and Rett's syndrome – all of which are associated with autism spectrum disorders. The study will also examine any additional impact of a combination of one of these genes plus the fmr1 (Fragile X) gene. The study will examine what effects such genetic manipulations have on biochemical pathways in the brain, and how this relates to behaviors. The social and memory aspects of Drosophila courtship will be used as surrogate markers for impairments in social interactions and cognitive ability in autism. Alterations in the architecture of the brain areas that control these Drosophila behaviours will also be examined. Furthermore, the research seeks to identify pharmacological agents that can rescue the phenotype. What this means for people with autism: The exploitation of the Drosophila equivalents to some of the genes and behaviors found in man represents a convenient high throughput model system that can be used to economically and rapidly manipulate genes, examine neurobiology and behaviors, and test pharmacological agents. Drosophila research can inform other animal studies and indeed human research.