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1.  Polymorphisms in leucine-rich repeat genes are associated with autism spectrum disorder susceptibility in populations of European ancestry 
Molecular Autism  2010;1:7.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders which are characteristically comprised of impairments in social interaction, communication and restricted interests/behaviours. Several cell adhesion transmembrane leucine-rich repeat (LRR) proteins are highly expressed in the nervous system and are thought to be key regulators of its development. Here we present an association study analysing the roles of four promising candidate genes - LRRTM1 (2p), LRRTM3 (10q), LRRN1 (3p) and LRRN3 (7q) - in order to identify common genetic risk factors underlying ASDs.
In order to gain a better understanding of how the genetic variation within these four gene regions may influence susceptibility to ASDs, a family-based association study was undertaken in 661 families of European ancestry selected from four different ASD cohorts. In addition, a case-control study was undertaken across the four LRR genes, using logistic regression in probands with ASD of each population against 295 ECACC controls.
Significant results were found for LRRN3 and LRRTM3 (P < 0.005), using both single locus and haplotype approaches. These results were further supported by a case-control analysis, which also highlighted additional SNPs in LRRTM3.
Overall, our findings implicate the neuronal leucine-rich genes LRRN3 and LRRTM3 in ASD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC2913944  PMID: 20678249
2.  Family-based association analysis of alcohol dependence implicates KIAA0040 on Chromosome 1q in multiplex alcohol dependence families 
Open journal of genetics  2013;3(4):243-252.
A previous genome-wide linkage study of alcohol dependence in multiplex families found a suggestive linkage result for a region on Chromosome 1 near microsatellite markers D1S196 and D1S2878. The KIAA0040 gene has been mapped to this region (1q24 - q25). A recent genome-wide association study using SAGE (the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment) and COGA (Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism) found five SNPs within the KIAA0040 gene significantly associated with alcohol dependence. A meta-analysis using data from these sources also found the KIAA0040 gene significantly associated with alcohol dependence.
Using family data consisting of 1000 individuals with phenotypic data (762 with both phenotype and DNA), finer mapping of a 0.3 cM region that included the KIAA0040 gene and a flanking gene was undertaken using SNPs with minor allele frequency (MAF) ≥ 0.15 and pair-wise linkage disequilibrium (LD) of r2 < 0.8 using the HapMap CEU population.
Significant FBAT p-values were observed for six SNPs, four within the KIAA0040 gene (rs2269650, rs2861158, rs1008459, rs2272785) and two adjacent to KIAA0040 (rs10912899 and rs3753555). Five haplotype blocks of varying size were identified using HAPLOVIEW. Analysis using the haplotype-based test function of FBAT revealed one two-SNP block (rs1008459-rs2272785) associated with alcohol dependence. This block showed a pattern of transmission in which one haplotype, CT, with a frequency of 0.577 was found to be over-transmitted to affected offspring (p = 0.017) while another haplotype, AG, with a frequency of 0.238 was found to be under-transmitted to affected offspring (p = 0.006). A three-SNP block (rs1008459-rs2272785-rs375355) showed an overall significant association (p = 0.011) with alcohol dependence with the haplotype ACT over-transmitted to affected offspring (p = 0.016) and the haplotype GAG under-transmitted (p = 0.002).
Family-based association analysis shows the KIAA0040 gene significantly associated with alcohol dependence. The potential importance of the KIAA0040 gene for AD risk is currently unknown. However, the present results support earlier findings from a genome-wide association study.
PMCID: PMC4017249  PMID: 24829844
KIAA0040; Alcohol Dependence; Multiplex; Families
3.  Association of autism with polymorphisms in the paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 1 (PITX1) on chromosome 5q31: a candidate gene analysis 
BMC Medical Genetics  2007;8:74.
Autism is a complex, heterogeneous, behaviorally-defined disorder characterized by disruptions of the nervous system and of other systems such as the pituitary-hypothalamic axis. In a previous genome wide screen, we reported linkage of autism with a 1.2 Megabase interval on chromosome 5q31. For the current study, we hypothesized that 3 of the genes in this region could be involved in the development of autism: 1) paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 1 (PITX1), which is a key regulator of hormones within the pituitary-hypothalamic axis, 2) neurogenin 1, a transcription factor involved in neurogenesis, and 3) histone family member Y (H2AFY), which is involved in X-chromosome inactivation in females and could explain the 4:1 male:female gender distortion present in autism.
A total of 276 families from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) repository composed of 1086 individuals including 530 affected children were included in the study. Single nucleotide polymorphisms tagging the three candidate genes were genotyped on the initial linkage sample of 116 families. A second step of analysis was performed using tightly linked SNPs covering the PITX1 gene. Association was evaluated using the FBAT software version 1.7.3 for single SNP analysis and the HBAT command from the same package for haplotype analysis respectively.
Association between SNPs and autism was only detected for PITX1. Haplotype analysis within PITX1 showed evidence for overtransmission of the A-C haplotype of markers rs11959298 – rs6596189 (p = 0.0004). Individuals homozygous or heterozygous for the A-C haplotype risk allele were 2.54 and 1.59 fold more likely to be autistic than individuals who were not carrying the allele, respectively.
Strong and consistent association was observed between a 2 SNPs within PITX1 and autism. Our data suggest that PITX1, a key regulator of hormones within the pituitary-hypothalamic axis, may be implicated in the etiology of autism.
PMCID: PMC2222245  PMID: 18053270
4.  A noise-reduction GWAS analysis implicates altered regulation of neurite outgrowth and guidance in autism 
Molecular Autism  2011;2:1.
Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) have proved invaluable for the identification of disease susceptibility genes. However, the prioritization of candidate genes and regions for follow-up studies often proves difficult due to false-positive associations caused by statistical noise and multiple-testing. In order to address this issue, we propose the novel GWAS noise reduction (GWAS-NR) method as a way to increase the power to detect true associations in GWAS, particularly in complex diseases such as autism.
GWAS-NR utilizes a linear filter to identify genomic regions demonstrating correlation among association signals in multiple datasets. We used computer simulations to assess the ability of GWAS-NR to detect association against the commonly used joint analysis and Fisher's methods. Furthermore, we applied GWAS-NR to a family-based autism GWAS of 597 families and a second existing autism GWAS of 696 families from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) to arrive at a compendium of autism candidate genes. These genes were manually annotated and classified by a literature review and functional grouping in order to reveal biological pathways which might contribute to autism aetiology.
Computer simulations indicate that GWAS-NR achieves a significantly higher classification rate for true positive association signals than either the joint analysis or Fisher's methods and that it can also achieve this when there is imperfect marker overlap across datasets or when the closest disease-related polymorphism is not directly typed. In two autism datasets, GWAS-NR analysis resulted in 1535 significant linkage disequilibrium (LD) blocks overlapping 431 unique reference sequencing (RefSeq) genes. Moreover, we identified the nearest RefSeq gene to the non-gene overlapping LD blocks, producing a final candidate set of 860 genes. Functional categorization of these implicated genes indicates that a significant proportion of them cooperate in a coherent pathway that regulates the directional protrusion of axons and dendrites to their appropriate synaptic targets.
As statistical noise is likely to particularly affect studies of complex disorders, where genetic heterogeneity or interaction between genes may confound the ability to detect association, GWAS-NR offers a powerful method for prioritizing regions for follow-up studies. Applying this method to autism datasets, GWAS-NR analysis indicates that a large subset of genes involved in the outgrowth and guidance of axons and dendrites is implicated in the aetiology of autism.
PMCID: PMC3035032  PMID: 21247446
5.  Linkage and association of the glutamate receptor 6 gene with autism 
Molecular Psychiatry  2002;7(3):302-310.
A genome scan was previously performed and pointed to chromosome 6q21 as a candidate region for autism. This region contains the glutamate receptor 6 (GluR6 or GRIK2) gene, a functional candidate for the syndrome. Glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and is directly involved in cognitive functions such as memory and learning. We used two different approaches, the affected sib-pair (ASP) method and the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT), to investigate the linkage and association between GluR6 and autism. The ASP method, conducted with additional markers on the 51 original families and in 8 new sibling pairs, showed a significant excess of allele sharing, generating an elevated multipoint maximum LOD score (ASPEX MLS = 3.28). TDT analysis, performed in the ASP families and in an independent data set of 107 parent-offspring trios, indicated a significant maternal transmission disequilibrium (TDTall P = 0.0004). Furthermore, TDT analysis (with only one affected proband per family) showed significant association between GluR6 and autism (TDT association P = 0.008). In contrast to maternal transmission, paternal transmission of GluR6 alleles was as expected in the absence of linkage, suggesting a maternal effect such as imprinting. Mutation screening was performed in 33 affected individuals, revealing several nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including one amino acid change (M867I) in a highly conserved domain of the intracytoplasmic C-terminal region of the protein. This change is found in 8% of the autistic subjects and in 4% of the control population and seems to be more maternally transmitted than expected to autistic males (P = 0.007). Taken together, these data suggest that GluR6 is in linkage disequilibrium with autism.
PMCID: PMC2547854  PMID: 11920157
Amino Acid Sequence; Autistic Disorder; genetics; Brain; physiopathology; Child; Chromosome Mapping; Chromosomes; Human; Pair 6; Exons; Family; Female; Genetic Markers; Genotype; Glutamic Acid; physiology; Humans; Linkage (Genetics); Male; Molecular Sequence Data; Open Reading Frames; Receptors; Kainic Acid; genetics; Restriction Mapping; autistic disorder; GluR6; GRIK2; mutation screening; affected sib-pair method; TDT; linkage disequilibrium; single nucleotide polymorphism; editing; isoforms
6.  Association study of SHANK3 gene polymorphisms with autism in Chinese Han population 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:61.
Autism, a heterogeneous disease, is described as a genetic psychiatry disorder. Recently, abnormalities at the synapse are supposed to be important for the etiology of autism.SHANK3 (SH3 and multiple ankyrin repeat domains protein) gene encodes a master synaptic scaffolding protein at postsynaptic density (PSD) of excitatory synapse. Rare mutations and copy number variation (CNV) evidence suggested SHANK3 as a strong candidate gene for the pathogenesis of autism.
We performed an association study between SHANK3 gene polymorphisms and autism in Chinese Han population. We analyzed the association between five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the SHANK3 gene and autism in 305 Chinese Han trios, using the family based association test (FBAT). Linkage disequilibrium (LD) analysis showed the presence of LD between pairwise markers across the locus. We also performed mutation screening for the rare de novo mutations reported previously.
No significant evidence between any SNPs of SHANK3 and autism was observed. We did not detect any mutations described previously in our cohort.
We suggest that SHANK3 might not represent a major susceptibility gene for autism in Chinese Han population.
PMCID: PMC2721832  PMID: 19566951
7.  Appetite regulation genes are associated with body mass index in black South African adolescents: a genetic association study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000873.
Obesity is a complex trait with both environmental and genetic contributors. Genome-wide association studies have identified several variants that are robustly associated with obesity and body mass index (BMI), many of which are found within genes involved in appetite regulation. Currently, genetic association data for obesity are lacking in Africans—a single genome-wide association study and a few replication studies have been published in West Africa, but none have been performed in a South African population.
To assess the association of candidate loci with BMI in black South Africans. The authors focused on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the FTO, LEP, LEPR, MC4R, NPY2R and POMC genes.
A genetic association study.
990 randomly selected individuals from the larger Birth to Twenty cohort (a longitudinal birth cohort study of health and development in Africans).
The authors genotyped 44 SNPs within the six candidate genes that included known BMI-associated SNPs and tagSNPs based on linkage disequilibrium in an African population for FTO, LEP and NPY2R. To assess population substructure, the authors included 18 ancestry informative markers. Weight, height, sex, sex-specific pubertal stage and exact age collected during adolescence (13 years) were used to identify loci that predispose to obesity early in life.
Sex, sex-specific pubertal stage and exact age together explain 14.3% of the variation in log(BMI) at age 13. After adjustment for these factors, four SNPs were individually significantly associated with BMI: FTO rs17817449 (p=0.022), LEP rs10954174 (p=0.0004), LEP rs6966536 (p=0.012) and MC4R rs17782313 (p=0.045). Together the four SNPs account for 2.1% of the variation in log(BMI). Each risk allele was associated with an estimated average increase of 2.5% in BMI.
The study highlighted SNPs in FTO and MC4R as potential genetic markers of obesity risk in South Africans. The association with two SNPs in the 3′ untranslated region of the LEP gene is novel.
Article summary
Article focus
This is a replication study aiming to reproduce BMI association findings from European cohorts in a South African population.
This study focused on genes linked to appetite control that were previously reported to show association with BMI or obesity and included FTO, LEP, LEPR, MC4R, NPY2R and POMC.
Adolescent data were used to facilitate the identification of genetic loci that predispose to obesity early in life, as it is known that overweight/obese children have an elevated risk of becoming obese adults.
Key messages
We found four SNPs were individually significantly associated with BMI: FTO rs17817449 (p=0.022), LEP rs10954174 (p=0.0004), LEP rs6966536 (p=0.012) and MC4R rs17782313 (p=0.045).
Together the four SNPs account for 2.1% of the variation in log(BMI).
We also demonstrated that an accumulation of risk alleles is linked to a significant increase in BMI—individuals with seven risk alleles had an 11.0% increase in median BMI compared with those with two risk alleles.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This study provides the first preliminary evidence of the role of genetic variants in obesity risk in an adolescent black South African population.
This study was only moderately powered to detect association with BMI, and not all genes were exhaustively investigated.
TagSNP selection would have been enhanced if South African data were available for this approach.
PMCID: PMC3358621  PMID: 22614171
8.  Bivariate genetic association of KIAA1797 with heart rate in American Indians: the Strong Heart Family Study 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(18):3662-3671.
Heart rate (HR) has been identified as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), yet little is known regarding genetic factors influencing this phenotype. Previous research in American Indians (AIs) from the Strong Heart Family Study (SHFS) identified a significant quantitative trait locus (QTL) for HR on chromosome 9p21. Genetic association on HR was conducted in the SHFS. HR was measured from electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiograph (Echo) Doppler recordings. We examined 2248 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 9p21 for association using a gene-centric statistical test. We replicated the aforementioned QTL [logarithm of odds (LOD) = 4.83; genome-wide P= 0.0003] on chromosome 9p21 in one SHFS population using joint linkage of ECG and Echo HR. After correcting for effective number of SNPs using a gene-centric test, six SNPs (rs7875153, rs7848524, rs4446809, rs10964759, rs1125488 and rs7853123) remained significant. We applied a novel bivariate association method, which was a joint test of association of a single locus to two traits using a standard additive genetic model. The SNP, rs7875153, provided the strongest evidence for association (P = 7.14 × 10−6). This SNP (rs7875153) is rare (minor allele frequency = 0.02) in AIs and is located within intron 9 of the gene KIAA1797. To support this association, we applied lymphocyte RNA expression data from the San Antonio Family Heart Study, a longitudinal study of CVD in Mexican Americans. Expression levels of KIAA1797 were significantly associated (P = 0.012) with HR. These findings in independent populations support that KIAA1797 genetic variation may be associated with HR but elucidation of a functional relationship requires additional study.
PMCID: PMC2928129  PMID: 20601674
9.  Transmission disequilibrium testing of the chromosome 15q11-q13 region in autism 
Evidence implicates the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) and the 15q11-q13 genes as candidates for autism as well as restricted repetitive behavior (RRB).
We conducted dense transmission disequilibrium mapping of the 15q11-q13 region with 93 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 86 strictly defined autism trios and tested association between SNPs and autism using the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT). As exploratory analyses, parent-of-origin effects were examined using likelihood-ratio tests (LRT) and genotype-phenotype associations for specific RRB using the Family-Based Association Test (FBAT). Additionally, gene-gene interactions between nominally associated 15q11-q13 variants and 5-HTTLPR, the common length polymorphism of SLC6A4, were examined using conditional logistic regression (CLR).
TDT revealed nominally significant transmission disequilibrium between autism and five SNPs, three of which are located within close proximity of the GABAA receptor subunit gene clusters. Three SNPs in the SNRPN/UBE3A region had marginal imprinting effects. FBAT for genotype-phenotype relations revealed nominally significant association between two SNPs and one ADI-R sub-domain item. However, both TDT and FBAT were not statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. Gene-gene interaction analyses by CLR revealed additive genetic effect models, without interaction terms, fit the data best.
Lack of robust association between the 15q11-q13 SNPs and RRB phenotypes may be due to a small sample size and absence of more specific RRB measurement. Further investigation of the 15q11-q13 region with denser genotyping in a larger sample set may be necessary to determine whether this region confers risk to autism, indicated by association, or to specific autism phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4095800  PMID: 18361419
Autism; 15q11-q13; restricted repetitive behavior; 5-HTTLPR; association
10.  Novel copy number variants in children with autism and additional developmental anomalies 
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by three core symptom domains: ritualistic-repetitive behaviors, impaired social interaction, and impaired communication and language development. Recent studies have highlighted etiologically relevant recurrent copy number changes in autism, such as 16p11.2 deletions and duplications, as well as a significant role for unique, novel variants. We used Affymetrix 250K GeneChip Microarray technology (either NspI or StyI) to detect microdeletions and duplications in a subset of children from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). In order to enrich our sample for potentially pathogenic CNVs we selected children with autism who had additional features suggestive of chromosomal loss associated with developmental disturbance (positive criteria filter) but who had normal cytogenetic testing (negative criteria filter). We identified families with the following features: at least one child with autism who also had facial dysmorphology, limb or digit abnormalities, or ocular abnormalities. To detect changes in copy number we used a publicly available program, Copy Number Analyser for GeneChip® (CNAG) Ver. 2.0. We identified novel deletions and duplications on chromosomes 1q24.2, 3p26.2, 4q34.2, and 6q24.3. Several of these deletions and duplications include new and interesting candidate genes for autism such as syntaxin binding protein 5 (STXBP5 also known as tomosyn) and leucine rich repeat neuronal 1 (LRRN1 also known as NLRR1). Lastly, our data suggest that rare and potentially pathogenic microdeletions and duplications may have a substantially higher prevalence in children with autism and additional developmental anomalies than in children with autism alone.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11689-009-9013-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3164008  PMID: 21547721
Autism; Copy number variation; Structural variation; Mental retardation; Dysmorphology; Chromosome 6q24; STXBP5; Chromosome 3p26.3; LRRN1; Chromosome 22q11.2; Chromosome 4q34.2; Chromosome 1q24
11.  Genetic Linkage and Association of the Growth Hormone Secretagogue Receptor (Ghrelin Receptor) Gene in Human Obesity 
Diabetes  2005;54(1):259-267.
The growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR) (ghrelin receptor) plays an important role in the regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis. The GHSR gene lies on human chromosome 3q26 within a quantitative trait locus strongly linked to multiple phenotypes related to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Because the biological function and location of the GHSR gene make it an excellent candidate gene, we tested the relation between common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the GHSR gene and human obesity. We performed a comprehensive analysis of SNPs, linkage disequilibrium (LD), and haplotype structure across the entire GHSR gene region (99.3 kb) in 178 pedigrees with multiple obese members (DNA of 1,095 Caucasians) and in an independent sample of the general population (MONICA Augsburg left ventricular hypertrophy substudy; DNA of 1,418 Caucasians). The LD analysis revealed a disequilibrium block consisting of five SNPs, consistent in both study cohorts. We found linkage among all five SNPs, their haplotypes, and BMI. Further, we found suggestive evidence for transmission disequilibrium for the minor SNP alleles (P < 0.05) and the two most common haplotypes with the obesity affection status (“susceptible” P = 0.025, “nonsusceptible” P = 0.045) in the family cohort using the family-based association test program. Replication of these findings in the general population resulted in stronger evidence for an association of the SNPs (best P = 0.00001) and haplotypes with the disease (“susceptible” P = 0.002, “nonsusceptible” P = 0.002). To our knowledge, these data are the first to demonstrate linkage and association of SNPs and haplotypes within the GHSR gene region and human obesity. This linkage, together with significant transmission disequilibrium in families and replication of this association in an independent population, provides evidence that common SNPs and haplotypes within the GHSR region are involved in the pathogenesis of human obesity.
PMCID: PMC2793077  PMID: 15616037
12.  Systematic mutation analysis of KIAA0767 and KIAA1646 in chromosome 22q-linked periodic catatonia 
BMC Psychiatry  2005;5:36.
Periodic catatonia is a familial subtype of schizophrenia characterized by hyperkinetic and akinetic episodes, followed by a catatonic residual syndrome. The phenotype has been evaluated in two independent genome-wide linkage scans with evidence for a major locus on chromosome 15q15, and a second independent locus on chromosome 22qtel.
In the positional and brain-expressed candidate genes KIAA0767 and KIAA1646, we searched for variants in the complete exons and adjacent splice-junctions as well as in parts of the 5'- and 3'-untranslated regions by means of a systematic mutation screening in individuals from chromosome 22q-linked pedigrees.
The mutation scan revealed 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms, among them two rare codon variants (KIAA0767: S159I; KIAA1646: V338G). However, both were neither found segregating with the disease in the respective pedigree nor found at a significant frequency in a case-control association sample.
Starting from linkage signals at chromosome22qtel in periodic catatonia, we screened two positional brain-expressed candidate genes for genetic variation. Our study excludes genetic variations in the coding and putative promoter regions of KIAA0767 and KIAA1646 as causative factors for periodic catatonia.
PMCID: PMC1274336  PMID: 16225677
13.  Genome-scan for IQ discrepancy in autism: evidence for loci on chromosomes 10 and 16 
Human genetics  2010;129(1):59-70.
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 = 0.015; 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.
PMCID: PMC3082447  PMID: 20963441
14.  Loss of function of KIAA2022 causes mild to severe intellectual disability with an autism spectrum disorder and impairs neurite outgrowth 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(16):3306-3314.
Existence of a discrete new X-linked intellectual disability (XLID) syndrome due to KIAA2022 deficiency was questioned by disruption of KIAA2022 by an X-chromosome pericentric inversion in a XLID family we reported in 2004. Three additional families with likely pathogenic KIAA2022 mutations were discovered within the frame of systematic parallel sequencing of familial cases of XLID or in the context of routine array-CGH evaluation of sporadic intellectual deficiency (ID) cases. The c.186delC and c.3597dupA KIAA2022 truncating mutations were identified by X-chromosome exome sequencing, while array CGH discovered a 70 kb microduplication encompassing KIAA2022 exon 1 in the third family. This duplication decreased KIAA2022 mRNA level in patients' lymphocytes by 60%. Detailed clinical examination of all patients, including the two initially reported, indicated moderate-to-severe ID with autistic features, strabismus in all patients, with no specific dysmorphic features other than a round face in infancy and no structural brain abnormalities on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Interestingly, the patient with decreased KIAA2022 expression had only mild ID with severe language delay and repetitive behaviors falling in the range of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since little is known about KIAA2022 function, we conducted morphometric studies in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. We found that siRNA-mediated KIAA2022 knockdown resulted in marked impairment in neurite outgrowth including both the dendrites and the axons, suggesting a major role for KIAA2022 in neuron development and brain function.
PMCID: PMC3723314  PMID: 23615299
15.  “High Density SNP Association Study of the 17q21 Chromosomal Region Linked to Autism Identifies CACNA1G as a Novel Candidate Gene” 
Molecular psychiatry  2009;15(10):996-1005.
Chromosome 17q11-q21 is a region of the genome likely to harbor susceptibility to autism (MIM[209850]) based on prior evidence of linkage to the disorder. This linkage is specific to multiplex pedigrees containing only male probands (MO) within the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). Previously, Stone et al.1 completed a high-density SNP association study of 13.7Mb within this interval, but common variant association was not sufficient to account for the linkage signal. Here we extend this SNP-based association study to complete the coverage of the 2 LOD support interval around the chromosome 17q linkage peak by testing the majority of common alleles in 284 MO trios.
Markers within an interval containing the gene CACNA1G were found to be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a locally significant level (p = 1.9 × 10-5). While establishing CACNA1G as a novel candidate for autism, these alleles do not contribute sufficient genetic effect to explain the observed linkage, indicating there is substantial genetic heterogeneity despite the clear linkage signal. The region thus likely harbors a combination of multiple common and rare alleles contributing to the genetic risk. These data, along with previous studies of Chromosomes 5 and 7q3, suggest few if any major common risk alleles account for ASD risk under major linkage peaks in the AGRE sample. This provides important evidence for strategies to identify ASD genes, suggesting they should focus on identifying rare variants and common variants of small effect.
PMCID: PMC2889141  PMID: 19455149
Autism; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Association; Chromosome 17q; CACNA1G
16.  Haplotype structure enables prioritization of common markers and candidate genes in autism spectrum disorder 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(5):e262-.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that results in behavioral, social and communication impairments. ASD has a substantial genetic component, with 88–95% trait concordance among monozygotic twins. Efforts to elucidate the causes of ASD have uncovered hundreds of susceptibility loci and candidate genes. However, owing to its polygenic nature and clinical heterogeneity, only a few of these markers represent clear targets for further analyses. In the present study, we used the linkage structure associated with published genetic markers of ASD to simultaneously improve candidate gene detection while providing a means of prioritizing markers of common genetic variation in ASD. We first mined the literature for linkage and association studies of single-nucleotide polymorphisms, copy-number variations and multi-allelic markers in Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) families. From markers that reached genome-wide significance, we calculated male-specific genetic distances, in light of the observed strong male bias in ASD. Four of 67 autism-implicated regions, 3p26.1, 3p26.3, 3q25-27 and 5p15, were enriched with differentially expressed genes in blood and brain from individuals with ASD. Of 30 genes differentially expressed across multiple expression data sets, 21 were within 10 cM of an autism-implicated locus. Among them, CNTN4, CADPS2, SUMF1, SLC9A9, NTRK3 have been previously implicated in autism, whereas others have been implicated in neurological disorders comorbid with ASD. This work leverages the rich multimodal genomic information collected on AGRE families to present an efficient integrative strategy for prioritizing autism candidates and improving our understanding of the relationships among the vast collection of past genetic studies.
PMCID: PMC3669925  PMID: 23715297
AGRE; autism genetics; autism spectrum disorders; bibliome mining
17.  An X chromosome-wide association study in autism families identifies TBL1X as a novel autism spectrum disorder candidate gene in males 
Molecular Autism  2011;2:18.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with a strong genetic component. The skewed prevalence toward males and evidence suggestive of linkage to the X chromosome in some studies suggest the presence of X-linked susceptibility genes in people with ASD.
We analyzed genome-wide association study (GWAS) data on the X chromosome in three independent autism GWAS data sets: two family data sets and one case-control data set. We performed meta- and joint analyses on the combined family and case-control data sets. In addition to the meta- and joint analyses, we performed replication analysis by using the two family data sets as a discovery data set and the case-control data set as a validation data set.
One SNP, rs17321050, in the transducin β-like 1X-linked (TBL1X) gene [OMIM:300196] showed chromosome-wide significance in the meta-analysis (P value = 4.86 × 10-6) and joint analysis (P value = 4.53 × 10-6) in males. The SNP was also close to the replication threshold of 0.0025 in the discovery data set (P = 5.89 × 10-3) and passed the replication threshold in the validation data set (P = 2.56 × 10-4). Two other SNPs in the same gene in linkage disequilibrium with rs17321050 also showed significance close to the chromosome-wide threshold in the meta-analysis.
TBL1X is in the Wnt signaling pathway, which has previously been implicated as having a role in autism. Deletions in the Xp22.2 to Xp22.3 region containing TBL1X and surrounding genes are associated with several genetic syndromes that include intellectual disability and autistic features. Our results, based on meta-analysis, joint analysis and replication analysis, suggest that TBL1X may play a role in ASD risk.
PMCID: PMC3305893  PMID: 22050706
18.  Impaired Sociability and Cognitive Function in Nrcam-null Mice 
Behavioural brain research  2009;205(1):123-131.
NRCAM (Neuronal Cell Adhesion Molecule) has an important role in axonal guidance and the organization of neural circuitry during brain development. Association analyses in human populations have identified NRCAM as a candidate gene for autism susceptibility. In the present study, we evaluated Nrcam-null mice for sociability, social novelty preference, and reversal learning as a model for the social deficits, repetitive behavior, and cognitive rigidity characteristic of autism. Prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle responses was also measured, to reflect sensorimotor-gating deficits in autism spectrum disorders. Assays for anxiety-like behavior in an elevated plus maze and open field, motor coordination, and olfactory ability in a buried food test were conducted to provide control measures for the interpretation of results. Overall, the loss of Nrcam led to behavioral alterations in sociability, acquisition of a spatial task, and reversal learning, dependent on sex. In comparison to male wild type mice, male Nrcam-null mutants had significantly decreased sociability in a three-chambered choice task. Low sociability in the male null mutants was not associated with changes in anxiety-like behavior, activity, or motor coordination. Male, but not female, Nrcam-null mice had small decreases in prepulse inhibition. Nrcam deficiency in female mice led to impaired acquisition of spatial learning in the Morris water maze task. Reversal learning deficits were observed in both male and female Nrcam-null mice. These results provide evidence that NRCAM mediates domains of function relevant to symptoms observed in autism.
PMCID: PMC2753746  PMID: 19540269
Adhesion molecule; Autism; Cognition; Sensorimotor gating; Social approach; Spatial learning
19.  Obesity–insulin targeted genes in the 3p26-25 region in human studies and LG/J and SM/J mice 
Identifying metabolic syndrome (MetS) genes is important for novel drug development and health care. This study extends the findings on human chromosome 3p26-25 for an identified obesity–insulin factor QTL, with an LOD score above 3. A focused association analysis comprising up to 9578 African American and Caucasian subjects from the HyperGEN Network (908 African Americans and 1025 whites), the Family Heart Study (3035 whites in time 1 and 1943 in time 2), and the Framingham Heart Study (1317 in Offspring and 1320 in Generation 3) was performed. The homologous mouse region was explored in an F16 generation of an advanced intercross between the LG/J and SM/J inbred strains, in an experiment where 1002 animals were fed low-fat (247 males; 254 females) or high-fat (253 males; 248 females) diets. Association results in humans indicate pleiotropic effects for SNPs within or surrounding CNTN4 on obesity, lipids and blood pressure traits and for SNPs near IL5RA, TRNT1, CRBN, and LRRN1 on central obesity and blood pressure. Linkage analyses of this region in LG/J × SM/J mice identify a highly significant pleiotropic QTL peak for insulin and glucose levels, as well as response to glucose challenge. The mouse results show that insulin and glucose levels interact with high and low fat diets and differential gene expression was identified for Crbn and Arl8b. In humans, ARL8B resides ~137 kbps away from BHLHE40, expression of which shows up-regulation in response to insulin treatment. This focused human genetic analysis, incorporating mouse research evidenced that 3p26-25 has important genetic contributions to MetS components. Several of the candidate genes have functions in the brain. Their interaction with MetS and the brain warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3586585  PMID: 22386932
20.  Genetic Mapping of Vascular Calcified Plaque Loci on Chromosome 16p in European Americans from the Diabetes Heart Study 
Annals of human genetics  2011;75(2):222-235.
A carotid artery calcified plaque (CarCP) linkage peak on chromosome 16p (LOD 4.39 at 8.4cM) in European American (EA) families with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) from the Diabetes Heart Study (DHS) has been refined by fine-mapping and candidate genes and SNPs evaluated for association with subclinical CVD. Fine-mapping was based on 104 SNPs in 937 subjects from 315 families, including 45 SNPs in six candidate genes (CACNA1H, SEPX1, ABCA3, IL32, SOCS1, and KIAA0350). Linkage and association analyses using variance components analysis (SOLAR; adjusting for age, gender, BMI, and T2DM status) refined the original CarCP linkage into two distinct linkage regions (LOD scores: 3.89 at 6.9cM and 4.86 at 16.0cM). Evidence of linkage for coronary calcified plaque (LOD: 2.27 at 19cM) and a vascular calcification principle component (LOD: 3.71 at 16.0cM) was also observed. The strongest evidence for association with CarCP was observed with SNPs in the A2BP1 gene region (rs4337300 p=0.005) with modest evidence of association with SNPs in CACNA1H (p=0.010–0.033). Bayesian Quantitative Trait Nucleotide analysis identified a SNP, rs1358489, with either a functional effect on CarCP or in linkage disequilibrium with a functional SNP. This study refined the 16p region contributing to vascular calcification. Although the causal variants remain to be identified the results are consistent with a linkage peak which is due to multiple common variants, though rare variants cannot be excluded.
PMCID: PMC3074504  PMID: 21309755
type 2 diabetes; subclinical cardiovascular disease; fine mapping
21.  A Human Type 1 Diabetes Susceptibility Locus Maps to Chromosome 21q22.3 
Diabetes  2008;57(10):2858-2861.
OBJECTIVE— The Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium (T1DGC) has assembled and genotyped a large collection of multiplex families for the purpose of mapping genomic regions linked to type 1 diabetes. In the current study, we tested for evidence of loci associated with type 1 diabetes utilizing genome-wide linkage scan data and family-based association methods.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— A total of 2,496 multiplex families with type 1 diabetes were genotyped with a panel of 6,090 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Evidence of association to disease was evaluated by the pedigree disequilibrium test. Significant results were followed up by genotyping and analyses in two independent sets of samples: 2,214 parent-affected child trio families and a panel of 7,721 case and 9,679 control subjects.
RESULTS— Three of the SNPs most strongly associated with type 1 diabetes localized to previously identified type 1 diabetes risk loci: INS, IFIH1, and KIAA0350. A fourth strongly associated SNP, rs876498 (P = 1.0 × 10−4), occurred in the sixth intron of the UBASH3A locus at chromosome 21q22.3. Support for this disease association was obtained in two additional independent sample sets: families with type 1 diabetes (odds ratio [OR] 1.06 [95% CI 1.00–1.11]; P = 0.023) and case and control subjects (1.14 [1.09–1.19]; P = 7.5 × 10−8).
CONCLUSIONS— The T1DGC 6K SNP scan and follow-up studies reported here confirm previously reported type 1 diabetes associations at INS, IFIH1, and KIAA0350 and identify an additional disease association on chromosome 21q22.3 in the UBASH3A locus (OR 1.10 [95% CI 1.07–1.13]; P = 4.4 × 10−12). This gene and its flanking regions are now validated targets for further resequencing, genotyping, and functional studies in type 1 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2551699  PMID: 18647951
22.  Examination of Association of Genes in the Serotonin System to Autism 
Neurogenetics  2009;10(3):209-216.
Autism is characterized as one of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs), a spectrum of often severe behavioral and cognitive disturbances of early development. The high heritability of autism has driven multiple efforts to identify genetic variation that increases autism susceptibility. Numerous studies have suggested that variation in peripheral and central metabolism of serotonin (5-HT) may play a role in the pathophysiology of autism. We screened 403 autism families for 45 SNPs in 10 serotonin pathway candidate genes. Although genome-wide linkage scans in autism have provided support for linkage to various loci located within the serotonin pathway, our study does not provide strong evidence for linkage to any specific gene within the pathway. The most significant association (p=0.0002; p=0.02 after correcting for multiple comparisons) was found at rs1150220 (HTR3A) located on Chromosome 11 (~113 Mb). To test specifically for multilocus effects, Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction (MDR) was employed, and a significant 2-way interaction (p-value = 0.01) was found between rs10830962, near MTNR1B (Chromosome11; 92,338,075 bp) and rs1007631, near SLC7A5 (Chromosome16; 86,413,596 bp). These data suggest that variation within genes on the serotonin pathway, particularly HTR3A, may have modest effects on autism risk.
PMCID: PMC2753863  PMID: 19184136
Autism; Serotonin; SNPs; linkage; association
23.  The DLX1and DLX2 genes and susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders 
An imbalance between excitation and inhibition in the cerebral cortex has been suggested as a possible etiology of autism. The DLX genes encode homeodomain-containing transcription factors controlling the generation of GABAergic cortical interneurons. The DLX1 and DLX2 genes lie head-to-head in 2q32, a region associated with autism susceptibility. We investigated 6 Tag SNPs within the DLX1/2 genes in two cohorts of multiplex (MPX) and one of simplex (SPX) families for association with autism. Family-based association tests showed strong association with five of the SNPs. The common alleles of rs743605 and rs4519482 were significantly associated with autism (P<0.012) in the first sample of 138 MPX families, with the latter remaining significant after correction for multiple testing (Pcor=0.0046). Findings in a second sample of 169 MPX families not only confirmed the association at rs4519482 (P=0.034) but also showed strong allelic association of the common alleles at rs788172, rs788173 and rs813720 (Pcor=0.0003–0.04). In the combined MPX families, the common alleles were all significantly associated with autism (Pcor=0.0005–0.016). The GGGTG haplotype was over transmitted in the two MPX cohorts and the combined samples [Pcor<0.05: Pcor=0.00007 for the combined MPX families, Odds Ratio: 1.75 (95% CI: 1.33–2.30)]. Further testing in 306 SPX families replicated the association at rs4519482 (P=0.033) and the over transmission of the haplotype GGGTG (P=0.012) although P-values were not significant after correction for multiple testing. The findings support the presence of two functional polymorphisms, one in or near each of the DLX genes that increase susceptibility to, or cause, autism in MPX families where there is a greater genetic component for these conditions.
PMCID: PMC2986060  PMID: 18728693
autism spectrum disorders; epilepsy; genetics; DLX1 and DLX2 genes; GABAergic system; gene association
24.  An inversion inv(4)(p12–p15.3) in autistic siblings implicates the 4p GABA receptor gene cluster 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2006;43(5):429-434.
We describe the case of two brothers diagnosed with autism who both carry a paracentic inversion of the short arm of chromosome 4 (46,XY, inv(4)(p12–p15.3)). We have determined that this inversion is inherited from an apparently unaffected mother and unaffected maternal grandfather.
Using fluorescence in situ hybridisation analysis and Southern blot hybridisation we identified the breakpoints. The proximal breakpoint (4p12) maps to a region containing a cluster of gamma‐aminobutyric acid A (GABA(A)) receptor genes, and directly interrupts the GABRG1 gene, the distal‐most gene of the cluster. We also identified an insertion/deletion polymorphism for a ∼2 kb LINE1 (L1) element that occurs within intron 7 of GABRG1. Our genotype analysis amongst autism families indicated that the L1 deletion allele did not show increased transmission to affected individuals. No linkage disequilibrium was evident between the L1 and single nucleotide polymorphisms in adjacent GABA(A) receptor genes on 4p, where a recent study has identified significant association with autism.
Despite this, the identification of an inversion breakpoint disrupting GABRG1 provides solid support for the genetic involvement of the short arm of chromosome 4 in the genetic aetiology of autism, and for the hypothesis of disrupted GABA neurotransmission in autism.
PMCID: PMC2649013  PMID: 16556609
autism; GABA receptor; GABRG1; inversion; 4p
25.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Alcohol Dependence Implicates KIAA0040 on Chromosome 1q 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;37(2):557-566.
Previous studies using SAGE (the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment) and COGA (the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism) genome-wide association study (GWAS) data sets reported several risk loci for alcohol dependence (AD), which have not yet been well replicated independently or confirmed by functional studies. We combined these two data sets, now publicly available, to increase the study power, in order to identify replicable, functional, and significant risk regions for AD. A total of 4116 subjects (1409 European-American (EA) cases with AD, 1518 EA controls, 681 African-American (AA) cases, and 508 AA controls) underwent association analysis. An additional 443 subjects underwent expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis. Genome-wide association analysis was performed in EAs to identify significant risk genes. All available markers in the genome-wide significant risk genes were tested in AAs for associations with AD, and in six HapMap populations and two European samples for associations with gene expression levels. We identified a unique genome-wide significant gene—KIAA0040—that was enriched with many replicable risk SNPs for AD, all of which had significant cis-acting regulatory effects. The distributions of −log(p) values for SNP-disease and SNP-expression associations for all markers in the TNN–KIAA0040 region were consistent across EAs, AAs, and five HapMap populations (0.369⩽r⩽0.824; 2.8 × 10−9⩽p⩽0.032). The most significant SNPs in these populations were in high LD, concentrating in KIAA0040. Finally, expression of KIAA0040 was significantly (1.2 × 10−11⩽p⩽1.5 × 10−6) associated with the expression of numerous genes in the neurotransmitter systems or metabolic pathways previously associated with AD. We concluded that KIAA0040 might harbor a causal variant for AD and thus might directly contribute to risk for this disorder. KIAA0040 might also contribute to the risk of AD via neurotransmitter systems or metabolic pathways that have previously been implicated in the pathophysiology of AD. Alternatively, KIAA0040 might regulate the risk via some interactions with flanking genes TNN and TNR. TNN is involved in neurite outgrowth and cell migration in hippocampal explants, and TNR is an extracellular matrix protein expressed primarily in the central nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3242317  PMID: 21956439
risk region; alcohol dependence; cis-eQTL; GWAS; alcohol & alcoholism; neurogenetics; addiction & substance abuse; biological psychiatry; GWAScis-eQTL; risk region

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