Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an early-onset neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social behaviors and communication. Oxytocin and its signaling pathway are related to a range of human behaviors, from facial expression recognition to aggressive behaviors, and have been suggested as involved in the etiology of ASD. Our aim was to evaluate the influence of two polymorphisms (rs1042778, rs53576) at the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) on ASD diagnosis and on specific ASD-related clinical symptoms (seizures, panic, and aggressive behaviors). We also assessed if these SNPs could be related to changes in OXTR availability and functionality using a bioinformatic approach. The sample was composed by 209 probands with ASD and their biological parents. Family-based approach and logistic regression models were used to investigated the outcomes. We observed that panic and aggressive behaviors were nominally associated with presence of rs1042778 T allele (P = 0.019/P corr = 0.114; P = 0.046/P corr = 0.276 respectively). Also, in the family-based analysis, a trend towards association with ASD susceptibility was observed for rs1042778 (G allele) (P = 0.066). In a bioinformatic approach, we demonstrated that rs1042778 G allele is determinant for the binding of the transcription factor MAZ, suggesting that when the T allele is present, the absence of MAZ binding might be associated with lower transcription levels of the OXTR gene. The overall findings suggest that the OXTR gene may play a role in ASD diagnosis and some of its clinical phenotypes, supported by previous animal and clinical studies. Further investigations are necessary to replicate our findings and fully understand the effects of the oxytocin pathway on ASD.
Journal of Molecular Neuroscience – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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