Apart from the most prominent symptoms in Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), namely deficits in social interaction and repetitive behavior, patients often show abnormal sensory reactivity to environmental stimuli. Especially potentially painful stimuli are reported to be experienced in a different way compared to healthy persons.
In our present study, we present an ASD patient carrying compound heterozygous mutations in the voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) Nav1.8, which is preferentially expressed in sensory neurons. We expressed both identified mutations, p.I1511M and p.R512X, in a heterologous expression system and investigated their biophysical properties using patch-clamp recordings.
The results of these experiments suggest that both mutations lead to different degrees of loss-of-function of Nav1.8. Behavioral experiments in a Nav1.8 loss-of-function mouse model additionally revealed Nav1.8 may play a role in autistic behavior.
Our study did not verified the functions of p.I1511M and p.R512X mutations in vivo. The mice with these mutations can be constructed to verify the mutation functions in the future investigations. In addition, since we have only found one ASD patient which may relate to SCN10A mutations, the role of Nav1.8 in ASD needs to be confirmed in more cases. Moreover, the cellular mechanism underlying the effect of Nav1.8 on ASD needed to be explored in future studies.
Our results present Nav1.8 as a protein potentially involved in ASD pathophysiology and may therefore offer new insights to the genetic basis of this disease.