We searched for disruptive, genic rare copy-number variants (CNVs) among 411 families affected by sporadic autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from the Simons Simplex Collection by using available exome sequence data and CoNIFER (Copy Number Inference from Exome Reads). Compared to high-density SNP microarrays, our approach yielded ?2× more smaller genic rare CNVs. We found that affected probands inherited more CNVs than did their siblings (453 versus 394, p = 0.004; odds ratio [OR] = 1.19) and that the probands CNVs affected more genes (921 versus 726, p = 0.02; OR = 1.30). These smaller CNVs (median size 18 kb) were transmitted preferentially from the mother (136 maternal versus 100 paternal, p = 0.02), although this bias occurred irrespective of affected status. The excess burden of inherited CNVs among probands was driven primarily by sibling pairs with discordant social-behavior phenotypes (p < 0.0002, measured by Social Responsiveness Scale [SRS] score), which contrasts with families where the phenotypes were more closely matched or less extreme (p > 0.5). Finally, we found enrichment of brain-expressed genes unique to probands, especially in the SRS-discordant group (p = 0.0035). In a combined model, our inherited CNVs, de novo CNVs, and de novo single-nucleotide variants all independently contributed to the risk of autism (p < 0.05). Taken together, these results suggest that small transmitted rare CNVs play a role in the etiology of simplex autism. Importantly, the small size of these variants aids in the identification of specific genes as additional risk factors associated with ASD.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable disorder of complex and heterogeneous aetiology. It is primarily characterized by altered cognitive ability including impaired language and communication skills and fundamental deficits in social reciprocity. Despite some notable successes in neuropsychiatric genetics, overall, the high heritability of ASD (~90%) remains poorly explained by common genetic risk variants. However, recent studies suggest that rare genomic variation, in particular copy number variation, may account for a significant proportion of the genetic basis of ASD. We present a large scale analysis to identify candidate genes which may contain low-frequency recessive variation contributing to ASD while taking into account the potential contribution of population differences to the genetic heterogeneity of ASD. Our strategy, homozygous haplotype (HH) mapping, aims to detect homozygous segments of identical haplotype structure that are shared at a higher frequency amongst ASD patients compared to parental controls. The analysis was performed on 1,402 Autism Genome Project trios genotyped for 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We identified 25 known and 1,218 novel ASD candidate genes in the discovery analysis including CADM2, ABHD14A, CHRFAM7A, GRIK2, GRM3, EPHA3, FGF10, KCND2, PDZK1, IMMP2L and FOXP2. Furthermore, 10 of the previously reported ASD genes and 300 of the novel candidates identified in the discovery analysis were replicated in an independent sample of 1,182 trios. Our results demonstrate that regions of HH are significantly enriched for previously reported ASD candidate genes and the observed association is independent of gene size (odds ratio 2.10). Our findings highlight the applicability of HH mapping in complex disorders such as ASD and offer an alternative approach to the analysis of genome-wide association data.
The broader autism phenotype (BAP) was assessed in parents who have two or more children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (multiplex (MPX) autism), parents who have no more than one child with ASD (simplex autism), parents who have a child with developmental delay without ASD, and parents who have typically developing children. Clinicians, naive to parent group membership status, rated BAP characteristics from videotaped administration of the Broader Autism Phenotype Symptom Scale (BPASS). Differences among groups in BPASS scores in the four assessed domains (social motivation, conversational skills, expressiveness, and restricted interests) were examined using multivariate ANOVA and post hoc comparisons. Further, ratings of videotapes by observers naïve to family status were compared with live, non-naive ratings by observers who were aware of family status (non-naïve). Findings demonstrate that the BPASS is an instrument resistant to rater bias. Parents from MPX autism families showed significantly more autism phenotype characteristics than the parents in the other groups. Moreover, the parents from simplex autism families did not differ from the parents of children with developmental delay or typical development. Finally, no differences between live, non-naive ratings and videotaped, naive ratings were observed. These findings suggest that characteristics of the BAP, specifically in the social and communication domains, are present in MPX autism parents to a greater degree than simplex autism and control parents. Further, the results provide support for the notion that genetic transmission mechanisms may differ between families with more than one child with autism and families with only one child with autism.
Performance IQ (PIQ) greater than verbal IQ (VIQ) is often observed in studies of the cognitive abilities of autistic individuals. This characteristic is correlated with social and communication impairments, key parts of the autism diagnosis. We present the first genetic analyses of IQ discrepancy (PIQ-VIQ) as an autism-related phenotype. We performed genome-wide joint linkage and segregation analyses on 287 multiplex families, using a Markov chain Monte Carlo approach. Genetic data included a genome-scan of 387 micro-satellite markers in 210 families augmented with additional markers added in a subset of families. Empirical P values were calculated for five interesting regions. Linkage analysis identified five chromosomal regions with substantial regional evidence of linkage; 10p12 [P = 0.001; genome-wide (gw) P = 0.05], 16q23 (P = .015; gw P = 0.53), 2p21 (P = 0.03, gw P = 0.78), 6q25 (P = 0.047, gw P = 0.91) and 15q23-25 (P = 0.053, gw P = 0.93). The location of the chromosome 10 linkage signal coincides with a region noted in a much earlier genome-scan for autism, and the chromosome 16 signal coincides exactly with a linkage signal for non-word repetition in specific language impairment. This study provides strong evidence for a QTL influencing IQ discrepancy in families with autistic individuals on chromosome 10, and suggestive evidence for a QTL on chromosome 16. The location of the chromosome 16 signal suggests a candidate gene, CDH13, a T-cadherin expressed in the brain, which has been implicated in previous SNP studies of autism and ADHD.
Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have a substantial genetic basis, most of the known genetic risk has been traced to rare variants, principally copy number variants (CNVs). To identify common risk variation, the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium genotyped 1558 rigorously defined ASD families for 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and analyzed these SNP genotypes for association with ASD. In one of four primary association analyses, the association signal for marker rs4141463, located within MACROD2, crossed the genome-wide association significance threshold of P < 5 × 10(-8). When a smaller replication sample was analyzed, the risk allele at rs4141463 was again over-transmitted; yet, consistent with the winners curse, its effect size in the replication sample was much smaller; and, for the combined samples, the association signal barely fell below the P < 5 × 10(-8) threshold. Exploratory analyses of phenotypic subtypes yielded no significant associations after correction for multiple testing. They did, however, yield strong signals within several genes, KIAA0564, PLD5, POU6F2, ST8SIA2 and TAF1C.
The autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of conditions characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction and communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviours. Individuals with an ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability. Although ASDs are known to be highly heritable ( approximately 90%), the underlying genetic determinants are still largely unknown. Here we analysed the genome-wide characteristics of rare (<1% frequency) copy number variation in ASD using dense genotyping arrays. When comparing 996 ASD individuals of European ancestry to 1,287 matched controls, cases were found to carry a higher global burden of rare, genic copy number variants (CNVs) (1.19 fold, P = 0.012), especially so for loci previously implicated in either ASD and/or intellectual disability (1.69 fold, P = 3.4 x 10(-4)). Among the CNVs there were numerous de novo and inherited events, sometimes in combination in a given family, implicating many novel ASD genes such as SHANK2, SYNGAP1, DLGAP2 and the X-linked DDX53-PTCHD1 locus. We also discovered an enrichment of CNVs disrupting functional gene sets involved in cellular proliferation, projection and motility, and GTPase/Ras signalling. Our results reveal many new genetic and functional targets in ASD that may lead to final connected pathways.
Exome sequencing studies of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have identified many de novo mutations but few recurrently disrupted genes. We therefore developed a modified molecular inversion probe method enabling ultra-low-cost candidate gene resequencing in very large cohorts. To demonstrate the power of this approach, we captured and sequenced 44 candidate genes in 2446 ASD probands. We discovered 27 de novo events in 16 genes, 59% of which are predicted to truncate proteins or disrupt splicing. We estimate that recurrent disruptive mutations in six genes-CHD8, DYRK1A, GRIN2B, TBR1, PTEN, and TBL1XR1-may contribute to 1% of sporadic ASDs. Our data support associations between specific genes and reciprocal subphenotypes (CHD8-macrocephaly and DYRK1A-microcephaly) and replicate the importance of a ?-catenin-chromatin-remodeling network to ASD etiology.
While it is apparent that rare variation can play an important role in the genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the contribution of common variation to the risk of developing ASD is less clear. To produce a more comprehensive picture, we report Stage 2 of the Autism Genome Project genome-wide association study, adding 1301 ASD families and bringing the total to 2705 families analysed (Stages 1 and 2). In addition to evaluating the association of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), we also sought evidence that common variants, en masse, might affect the risk. Despite genotyping over a million SNPs covering the genome, no single SNP shows significant association with ASD or selected phenotypes at a genome-wide level. The SNP that achieves the smallest P-value from secondary analyses is rs1718101. It falls in CNTNAP2, a gene previously implicated in susceptibility for ASD. This SNP also shows modest association with age of word/phrase acquisition in ASD subjects, of interest because features of language development are also associated with other variation in CNTNAP2. In contrast, allele scores derived from the transmission of common alleles to Stage 1 cases significantly predict case status in the independent Stage 2 sample. Despite being significant, the variance explained by these allele scores was small (Vm< 1%). Based on results from individual SNPs and their en masse effect on risk, as inferred from the allele score results, it is reasonable to conclude that common variants affect the risk for ASD but their individual effects are modest.
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