Epigenetic mechanisms: A possible link between autism spectrum disorders and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

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The etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) still remains unclear and seems to involve a considerable overlap between polygenic, epigenetic and environmental factors.

We have summarized the current understanding of the interplay between gene expression dysregulation via epigenetic modifications and the potential epigenetic impact of environmental factors in neurodevelopmental deficits. Furthermore, we discuss the scientific controversies of the relationship between prenatal exposure to alcohol and alcohol-induced epigenetic dysregulations, and gene expression alterations which are associated with disrupted neural plasticity and causal pathways for ASDs. The review of the literature suggests that a better understanding of developmental epigenetics should contribute to furthering our comprehension of the etiology and pathogenesis of ASDs and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

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