Neurodevelopmental and late-onset neurodegenerative disorders present as separate entities that are clinically and neuropathologically quite distinct. However, recent evidence has highlighted surprising commonalities and converging features at the clinical, genomic, and molecular level between these two disease spectra. This is particularly striking in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Genetic causes and risk factors play a central role in disease pathophysiology and enable the identification of overlapping mechanisms and pathways. Here, we focus on clinico-genetic studies of causal variants and overlapping clinical and cellular features of ASD and PD. Several genes and genomic regions were selected for our review, including SNCA
(parkin RBR E3 ubiquitin protein ligase), chromosome 22q11 deletion/DiGeorge region, and FMR1
(fragile X mental retardation 1) repeat expansion, which influence the development of both ASD and PD, with converging features related to synaptic function and neurogenesis. Both PD and ASD display alterations and impairments at the synaptic level, representing early and key disease phenotypes, which support the hypothesis of converging mechanisms between the two types of diseases. Therefore, understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms might inform on common targets and therapeutic approaches. We propose to re-conceptualize how we understand these disorders and provide a new angle into disease targets and mechanisms linking neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration.
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