An Arg to Cys mutation in the extracellular domain of neuroligin-3 (NL3) was recently found in a twin set with autism [S. Jamain, H. Quach, C. Betancur, M. Rastam, C. Colineaux, I.C. Gillberg, H. Soderstrom, B. Giros, M. Leboyer, C. Gillberg, T. Bourgeron, Paris Autism Research International Sibpair Study, mutations of the X-linked genes encoding neuroligins NLGN3 and NLGN4 are associated with autism, Nat. Genet. 34 (2003) 27-29]. The Cys substitution in NL3 causes altered intracellular protein trafficking, intracellular retention and diminished association with its cognate partner, β-neurexin [D. Comoletti, A. De Jaco, L.L. Jennings, R.E. Flynn, G. Gaietta, I. Tsigelny, M.H. Ellisman, P. Taylor, The R451C-neuroligin-3 mutation associated with autism reveals a defect in protein processing, J. Neurosci. 24 (2004) 4889-4893]. NL3, butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), and acetylcholinesterase (AChE), as members of the α/β-hydrolase fold family of proteins, share over 30% of amino acid identity in their extracellular domains. In particular, Arg451 in NL3 is conserved in the α/β-hydrolase fold family being homologous to Arg386 in BuChE and Arg395 in AChE. A Cys substitution at the homologous Arg in the BuChE was found studying post-succinylcholine apnea in an Australian population [T. Yen, B.N. Nightingale, J.C. Burns, D.R. Sullivan, P.M. Stewart, Butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) genotyping for post-succinylcholine apnea in an Australian population, Clin. Chem. 49 (2003) 1297-308]. We have made the homologous mutation in the mouse AChE and BuChE genes and showed that the Arg to Cys mutations resulted in identical alterations in the cellular phenotype for the various members of the α/β-hydrolase fold family proteins.
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