Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Michelle Chandley

Thesis Professor Department

Biomedical Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Michelle Chandley, Michelle Johnson.


It is estimated that one in 59 children in the US are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is distinguished by social and communication deficits that can be displayed throughout a wide range of severity. This resulting spectrum of behaviors observed in ASD suggests that a complex etiology is involved. Previous studies have shown a genetic susceptibility to autism including paternal age, twin and sibling concordance. Genetic sequencing of those affected as well as first order relatives have identified alterations in genes associated with neuronal synaptic communication. However, very little information is available regarding the pathophysiology of synapses in ASD. Neuronal communication between anterior cingulate cortical neurons via synapses with other brain regions is vital in the execution of social behaviors in individuals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the protein expression of the synaptic marker spinophilin and post-synaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) in postmortem ASD gray matter brain tissue from the anterior cingulate and frontal cortex to compare to typically developing (TD) control brain tissue. Postmortem brain tissue of ASD and TD subjects was acquired from nationally funded brain repositories previously matched by brain area, age and gender. Immunoblotting for spinophilin and PSD-95 was performed using anterior cingulate and frontal cortical gray matter brain tissue from matched ASD and TD brain tissue. Spinophilin and PSD-95 protein amounts for all donors were normalized using GAPDH. Frontal cortical tissue demonstrated no significant differences in spinophilin protein expression between TD and ASD groups (N=6). Anterior cingulate tissue demonstrated no significant differences in spinophilin protein expression between TD and ASD groups (N=5). PSD-95 protein expression levels did not result in any significant differences between ASD donors and their control pairs for either brain tissue region. Although no changes were detected in the frontal cortex or anterior cingulate cortex, more brain areas and subjects must be evaluated to determine if spinophilin or PSD-95 can be reliable markers for synaptic alterations in ASD. These data are critical in determining synaptic pathology in ASD which may lead to future treatments.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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The form to withhold my thesis for two years while Dr. Chandley works on a publication.


Copyright by the authors.