Involvement of the PRKCB1 gene in autistic disorder: Significant genetic association and reduced neocortical gene expression

C. Lintas, R. Sacco, K. Garbett, K. Mirnics, R. Militerni, C. Bravaccio, P. Curatolo, B. Manzi, C. Schneider, R. Melmed, M. Elia, T. Pascucci, S. Puglisi-Allegra, K. L. Reichelt, A. M. Persico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Protein kinase C enzymes play an important role in signal transduction, regulation of gene expression and control of cell division and differentiation. The fsI and ΒII isoenzymes result from the alternative splicing of the PKCΒ gene (PRKCB1), previously found to be associated with autism. We performed a family-based association study in 229 simplex and 5 multiplex families, and a postmortem study of PRKCB1 gene expression in temporocortical gray matter (BA4142) of 11 autistic patients and controls. PRKCB1 gene haplotypes are significantly associated with autism (P<0.05) and have the autistic endophenotype of enhanced oligopeptiduria (P<0.05). Temporocortical PRKCB1 gene expression was reduced on average by 35 and 31 for the PRKCB1-1 and PRKCB1-2 isoforms (P<0.01 and <0.05, respectively) according to qPCR. Protein amounts measured for the PKCΒII isoform were similarly decreased by 35 (P0.05). Decreased gene expression characterized patients carrying the normal PRKCB1 alleles, whereas patients homozygous for the autism-associated alleles displayed mRNA levels comparable to those of controls. Whole genome expression analysis unveiled a partial disruption in the coordinated expression of PKCΒ-driven genes, including several cytokines. These results confirm the association between autism and PRKCB1 gene variants, point toward PKCΒ roles in altered epithelial permeability, demonstrate a significant downregulation of brain PRKCB1 gene expression in autism and suggest that it could represent a compensatory adjustment aimed at limiting an ongoing dysreactive immune process. Altogether, these data underscore potential PKCΒ roles in autism pathogenesis and spur interest in the identification and functional characterization of PRKCB1 gene variants conferring autism vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-718
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism; pervasive developmental disorders
  • PRKCB1
  • Protein kinase C-β
  • TGF-β
  • Temporal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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