Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grissom on Sex Bias Research in Mice

Headshot of Dr. Nicola Grissom
An article published by Spectrum News titled, “Sex bias emerges in new mouse model with autism-linked mutation,” reports that mice with a mutation in an autism-linked gene called ADNP were found to show sex-specific changes in gene expression and other characteristics. This is interesting as it may mimic some of the traits seen in people with this gene. Mutations in this gene can cause a syndrome characterized by autism, low muscle tone, distinct facial features, and intellectual disability.

This research can help researchers understand how to manage the condition in humans. Mice with mutated ADNP were found to have delayed hearing development as well as unusual motor difficulties which were more pronounced in female mice. Additional research found that mice with the mutation had issues with sensory development and male mice groomed themselves more frequently showing similarities to repeated behaviors found in people.

Nicola Grissom, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, weighed in on the value of this research. Grissom shared that because a mouse’s genetic background influences both its biology and behavior, assessing the mutation in ADNP can offer further insight into the role of individual gene differences. She also shared how this study highlights how multiple mechanisms can influence biology. Specifically, with autism, it is still unclear why there is a higher prevalence of autism in boys. Grissom shares that researchers are looking at whether there could be “differences across male and female animals in the impact of genotype” and indeed they are discovering some.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.