Although genetic variations in several genes encoding for synaptic adhesion proteins have been found to be associated with autism spectrum disorders, one of the most consistently replicated genes has been CNTNAP2, encoding for contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2), a multidomain transmembrane protein of the neurexin superfamily. Using immunofluorescence confocal microscopy and complementary biochemical techniques, we compared wild-type CASPR2 to 12 point mutations identified in individuals with autism. In contrast to the wild-type protein, localized to the cell surface, some of the mutants show altered cellular disposition. In particular, CASPR2-D1129H is largely retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in HEK-293 cells and in hippocampal neurons. BiP/Grp78, Calnexin and ERp57, key ER chaperones, appear to be responsible for retention of this mutant and activation of one signaling pathway of the unfolded protein response (UPR). The presence of this mutation also lowers expression and activates proteosomal degradation. A frame-shift mutation that causes a form of syndromic epilepsy (CASPR2-1253*), results in a secreted protein with seemingly normal folding and oligomerization. Taken together, these data indicate that CASPR2-D1129H has severe trafficking abnormalities and CASPR2-1253* is a secreted soluble protein, suggesting that the structural or signaling functions of the membrane tethered form are lost. Our data support a complex genetic architecture in which multiple distinct risk factors interact with others to shape autism risk and presentation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology