Pfizer Prize to João Peça

Pfizer Award - Joao Peca

João Peça is a Syn2Psy principal investigator at CNC and he was today distinguished with a Pfizer Prize with 25,000€ for the research on genes associated with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, characterized by repetitive actions, alterations in language and social behaviour, is usually caused by genetic mutations. Recently João Peça group published a paper in Nature Communications where they describe the physiological roles of Gprasp2 gene in neurodevelopmental disorders ( The CNC researchers found that Gprasp2 deletion in mice causes autism-like behaviour and weakened communication in glutamatergic synapses due to the alteration of  mGluR (metabotropic glutamate receptor) on the membrane surface of neurons. They also observed a lower maturation of neurons of the Hippocampus, brain area responsible for learning and formation of new memories, due to a decreased recycling of the glutamatergic receptors. According to João Peça this results may lead to the development of new therapies that regulate the levels of GPRASP2 for autism forms which show perturbation of mGluR. The Gprasp2 mutant mice generated by the group is a new animal model with great promise to study autism.

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