In the lab of Dr. Michael Williams, we study the role of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) candidate genes in murine models of brain development. Genetics plays a large part in the risk of ASD. Changes to candidate genes, such as inherited or de novo mutations in coding regions, have been implicated not only in ASD but also in co-morbid conditions including intellectual disability and epilepsy. These conditions are generally prevalent and lacking effective therapeutics. We therefor strive to understand how these genes, and mutations within them, influence the developing brain. We pursue this goal through viral (i.e. CRISPR/Cas) and/or transgenic animal (i.e. conditional knockout) strategies to manipulate genes in developing murine neurons in vivo ahead of diverse assays ranging from biochemistry, to electrophysiology, to behavior.
A major focus is on candidate genes encoding receptors, effectors, and regulators that impact the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway, as this cascade is disrupted in varied (though not all) ASD patient sets and animal models. Experimentally, we attend to early brain patterning disruptions, with an emphasis on consequences for neuronal differentiation, migration, morphology, and synaptogenesis. However, the Williams lab is eager to work with those sharing an interest in neurodevelopmental disorders broadly defined, or with those seeking aid in the generation of novel plasmid, viral, or animal models of neurological disorders. Parties interested in consulting, training, or collaborating should contact the PI directly.