Animal models of autism spectrum disorders: information for neurotoxicologists.
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Recent findings derived from large-scale datasets and biobanks link multiple genes to autism spectrum disorders. Consequently, novel rodent mutants with deletions, truncations and in some cases, overexpression of these candidate genes have been developed and studied both behaviorally and biologically. At the Annual Neurotoxicology Meeting in Rochester, NY in October of 2008, a symposium of clinicians and basic scientists gathered to present the behavioral features of autism, as well as strategies to model those behavioral features in mice and primates. The aim of the symposium was to provide researchers with up-to-date information on both the genetics of autism and how they are used in differing in vivo and in vitro animal models as well as to provide a background on the environmental exposures being tested on several animal models. In addition, researchers utilizing complementary approaches, presented on cell culture, in vitro or more basic models, which target neurobiological mechanisms, including Drosophila. Following the presentation, a panel convened to explore the opportunities and challenges of using model systems to investigate genetic and environment interactions in autism spectrum disorders. The following paper represents a summary of each presentation, as well as the discussion that followed at the end of the symposium.