Neuroligins are a family of proteins that are known to be mutated in some patients with autism. Along with the neurexin proteins, neuroligins are involved in the synapses which allow information to travel between cells in the nervous system.
In June 2007, a study was published in the journal Structure which mapped the structure of the neuroligin/β-neurexin complex. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, led by Davide Comoletti, Ph.D., found clues in this mapping that may help scientists to understand the effects of mutations in these proteins. 
Study co-author Palmer Taylor says that understanding the mutations in these proteins may explain some of the early behavioral abnormalities associate with autism spectrum disorders: "Abnormal synaptic development in nerve connections is likely to lead to cognitive deficits seen in patients with autism." 
The study's findings may lead to new leads in medications for autism spectrum disorders.
- Comoletti, Davide; A. Grishaev, A. Whitten, I. Tsigelny, P. Taylor, J. Trewhella (June 13 2007). "Synaptic Arrangement of the Neuroligin/β-Neurexin Complex Revealed by X-Ray and Neutron Scattering". Structure 15 (6): 693-705.
- "Structure of Protein Altered in Autism", Science Daily, June 12, 2007.