Mice lacking a protein found in the synapses or spaces between neurons exhibit characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (Peça J et al. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature09965 [published online ahead of print March 20, 2011]).
To study the behavioral consequences of mutations in Shank3, a gene that has been implicated in autism spectrum disorders, researchers in the United States and Portugal created mice with Shank3 gene deletions that led to significantly reduced levels of the SHANK3 protein. The mice exhibited self-injurious repetitive grooming and deficits in social interaction with other mice.
Hampton T. Protein Link to Autism. JAMA. 2011;305(17):1756. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.542