Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) comprise a distinct entity of neurodevelopmental disorders with a strong genetic component. Despite the identification of several candidate genes and causative genomic copy number variations (CNVs), the majority of ASD cases still remain unresolved. We have applied microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) using Agilent 400K custom array in the first Cyprus population screening for identification of ASD-associated CNVs. A cohort of 50 ASD patients (G1), their parents (G2), 50 ethnically matched normal controls (G3), and 80 normal individuals having children with various developmental and neurological conditions (G4) were tested. As a result, 14 patients were found to carry 20 potentially causative aberrations, two of which were de novo. Comparison of the four population groups revealed an increased rate of rare disease-associated variants in normal parents of children with autism. The above data provided additional evidence, supporting the complexity of ASD aetiology in comparison to other developmental disorders involving cognitive impairment. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the rationale of a more targeted approach combining accurate clinical description with high-resolution population-oriented genomic screening for defining the role of CNVs in autism and identifying meaningful associations on the molecular level.
The 15q24 microdeletion syndrome has been recently described as a recurrent, submicroscopic genomic imbalance found in individuals with intellectual disability, typical facial appearance, hypotonia, and digital and genital abnormalities. Gene dosage abnormalities, including copy number variations (CNVs), have been identified in a significant fraction of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In this study we surveyed two ASD cohorts for 15q24 abnormalities to assess the frequency of genomic imbalances in this interval.
We screened 173 unrelated subjects with ASD from the Central Valley of Costa Rica and 1336 subjects with ASD from 785 independent families registered with the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) for CNVs across 15q24 using oligonucleotide arrays. Rearrangements were confirmed by array comparative genomic hybridization and quantitative PCR.
Among the patients from Costa Rica, an atypical de novo deletion of 3.06 Mb in 15q23-q24.1 was detected in a boy with autism sharing many features with the other 13 subjects with the 15q24 microdeletion syndrome described to date. He exhibited intellectual disability, constant smiling, characteristic facial features (high anterior hairline, broad medial eyebrows, epicanthal folds, hypertelorism, full lower lip and protuberant, posteriorly rotated ears), single palmar crease, toe syndactyly and congenital nystagmus. The deletion breakpoints are atypical and lie outside previously characterized low copy repeats (69,838-72,897 Mb). Genotyping data revealed that the deletion had occurred in the paternal chromosome. Among the AGRE families, no large 15q24 deletions were observed.
From the current and previous studies, deletions in the 15q24 region represent rare causes of ASDs with an estimated frequency of 0.1 to 0.2% in individuals ascertained for ASDs, although the proportion might be higher in sporadic cases. These rates compare with a frequency of about 0.3% in patients ascertained for unexplained intellectual disability and congenital anomalies. This atypical deletion reduces the minimal interval for the syndrome from 1.75 Mb to 766 kb, implicating a reduced number of genes (15 versus 38). Sequencing of genes in the 15q24 interval in large ASD and intellectual disability samples may identify mutations of etiologic importance in the development of these disorders.
The identification of rare inherited and de novo copy number variations (CNVs) in human subjects has proven a productive approach to highlight risk genes for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A variety of microarrays are available to detect CNVs, including single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) arrays. Here, we examine a cohort of 696 unrelated ASD cases using a high-resolution one-million feature CGH microarray, the majority of which were previously genotyped with SNP arrays. Our objective was to discover new CNVs in ASD cases that were not detected by SNP microarray analysis and to delineate novel ASD risk loci via combined analysis of CGH and SNP array data sets on the ASD cohort and CGH data on an additional 1000 control samples. Of the 615 ASD cases analyzed on both SNP and CGH arrays, we found that 13,572 of 21,346 (64%) of the CNVs were exclusively detected by the CGH array. Several of the CGH-specific CNVs are rare in population frequency and impact previously reported ASD genes (e.g., NRXN1, GRM8, DPYD), as well as novel ASD candidate genes (e.g., CIB2, DAPP1, SAE1), and all were inherited except for a de novo CNV in the GPHN gene. A functional enrichment test of gene-sets in ASD cases over controls revealed nucleotide metabolism as a potential novel pathway involved in ASD, which includes several candidate genes for follow-up (e.g., DPYD, UPB1, UPP1, TYMP). Finally, this extensively phenotyped and genotyped ASD clinical cohort serves as an invaluable resource for the next step of genome sequencing for complete genetic variation detection.
rare variants; gene copy number; chromosomal abnormalities; cytogenetics; molecular pathways
Copy number variations (CNVs) and DNA sequence alterations affecting specific neuronal genes are established risk factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In what is largely considered a genetic condition, so far, these mutations account for ~20% of individuals having an ASD diagnosis. However, non-coding genomic sequence also contains functional elements introducing additional disease risk loci for investigation.
We have performed genome-wide analyses and identified rare inherited CNVs affecting non-genic intervals in 41 of 1491 (3%) of ASD cases examined. Examples of such intergenic CNV regions include 16q21 and 2p16.3 near known ASD risk genes CDH8 and NRXN1 respectively, as well as novel loci contiguous with ZHX2, MOCS1, LRRC4C, SEMA3C, and other genes.
Rare variants in intergenic regions may implicate new risk loci and genes in ASD and also present useful data for comparison with coming whole genome sequence datasets.
Autism spectrum disorder; Copy number variation; Non-coding DNA
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 behaviors1. Individuals with an ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability (ID)2. While ASDs are known to be highly heritable (~90%)3, the underlying genetic determinants are still largely unknown. Here, we analyzed the genome-wide characteristics of rare (<1% frequency) copy number variation (CNV) 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 CNVs (1.19 fold, P= 0.012), especially so for loci previously implicated in either ASD and/or intellectual disability (1.69 fold, P= 3.4×10−4). Among the CNVs, there were numerous de novo and inherited events, sometimes in combination in a given family, implicating many novel ASD genes like 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 signaling. Our results reveal many new genetic and functional targets in ASD that may lead to final connected pathways.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by a core set of social-communicative and behavioral impairments. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, acting primarily via the GABA receptors (GABR). Multiple lines of evidence, including altered GABA and GABA receptor expression in autistic patients, indicate that the GABAergic system may be involved in the etiology of autism.
As copy number variations (CNVs), particularly rare and de novo CNVs, have now been implicated in ASD risk, we examined the GABA receptors and genes in related pathways for structural variation that may be associated with autism. We further extended our candidate gene set to include 19 genes and regions that had either been directly implicated in the autism literature or were directly related (via function or ancestry) to these primary candidates. For the high resolution CNV screen we employed custom-designed 244 k comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) arrays. Collectively, our probes spanned a total of 11 Mb of GABA-related and additional candidate regions with a density of approximately one probe every 200 nucleotides, allowing a theoretical resolution for detection of CNVs of approximately 1 kb or greater on average. One hundred and sixty-eight autism cases and 149 control individuals were screened for structural variants. Prioritized CNV events were confirmed using quantitative PCR, and confirmed loci were evaluated on an additional set of 170 cases and 170 control individuals that were not included in the original discovery set. Loci that remained interesting were subsequently screened via quantitative PCR on an additional set of 755 cases and 1,809 unaffected family members.
Results include rare deletions in autistic individuals at JAKMIP1, NRXN1, Neuroligin4Y, OXTR, and ABAT. Common insertion/deletion polymorphisms were detected at several loci, including GABBR2 and NRXN3. Overall, statistically significant enrichment in affected vs. unaffected individuals was observed for NRXN1 deletions.
These results provide additional support for the role of rare structural variation in ASD.
AUTISM; CGH; CNV; GABA; NRXN1
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly heritable, yet relatively few associated genetic loci have been replicated. Copy number variations (CNVs) have been implicated in autism; however, the majority of loci contribute to <1% of the disease population. Therefore, independent studies are important to refine associated CNV regions and discover novel susceptibility genes. In this study, a genome-wide SNP array was utilized for CNV detection by two distinct algorithms in a European ancestry case–control data set. We identify a significantly higher burden in the number and size of deletions, and disrupting more genes in ASD cases. Moreover, 18 deletions larger than 1 Mb were detected exclusively in cases, implicating novel regions at 2q22.1, 3p26.3, 4q12 and 14q23. Case-specific CNVs provided further evidence for pathways previously implicated in ASDs, revealing new candidate genes within the GABAergic signaling and neural development pathways. These include DBI, an allosteric binder of GABA receptors, GABARAPL1, the GABA receptor-associated protein, and SLC6A11, a postsynaptic GABA transporter. We also identified CNVs in COBL, deletions of which cause defects in neuronal cytoskeleton morphogenesis in model vertebrates, and DNER, a neuron-specific Notch ligand required for cerebellar development. Moreover, we found evidence of genetic overlap between ASDs and other neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases. These genes include glutamate receptors (GRID1, GRIK2 and GRIK4), synaptic regulators (NRXN3, SLC6A8 and SYN3), transcription factor (ZNF804A) and RNA-binding protein FMR1. Taken together, these CNVs may be a few of the missing pieces of ASD heritability and lead to discovering novel etiological mechanisms.
Structural variation is thought to play a major etiological role in the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and numerous studies documenting the relevance of copy number variants (CNVs) in ASD have been published since 2006. To determine if large ASD families harbor high-impact CNVs that may have broader impact in the general ASD population, we used the Affymetrix genome-wide human SNP array 6.0 to identify 153 putative autism-specific CNVs present in 55 individuals with ASD from 9 multiplex ASD pedigrees. To evaluate the actual prevalence of these CNVs as well as 185 CNVs reportedly associated with ASD from published studies many of which are insufficiently powered, we designed a custom Illumina array and used it to interrogate these CNVs in 3,000 ASD cases and 6,000 controls. Additional single nucleotide variants (SNVs) on the array identified 25 CNVs that we did not detect in our family studies at the standard SNP array resolution. After molecular validation, our results demonstrated that 15 CNVs identified in high-risk ASD families also were found in two or more ASD cases with odds ratios greater than 2.0, strengthening their support as ASD risk variants. In addition, of the 25 CNVs identified using SNV probes on our custom array, 9 also had odds ratios greater than 2.0, suggesting that these CNVs also are ASD risk variants. Eighteen of the validated CNVs have not been reported previously in individuals with ASD and three have only been observed once. Finally, we confirmed the association of 31 of 185 published ASD-associated CNVs in our dataset with odds ratios greater than 2.0, suggesting they may be of clinical relevance in the evaluation of children with ASDs. Taken together, these data provide strong support for the existence and application of high-impact CNVs in the clinical genetic evaluation of children with ASD.
Growing genetic evidence is converging in favor of common pathogenic mechanisms for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), intellectual disability (ID or mental retardation) and schizophrenia (SCZ), three neurodevelopmental disorders affecting cognition and behavior. Copy number variations and deleterious mutations in synaptic organizing proteins including NRXN1 have been associated with these neurodevelopmental disorders, but no such associations have been reported for NRXN2 or NRXN3. From resequencing the three neurexin genes in individuals affected by ASD (n = 142), SCZ (n = 143) or non-syndromic ID (n = 94), we identified a truncating mutation in NRXN2 in a patient with ASD inherited from a father with severe language delay and family history of SCZ. We also identified a de novo truncating mutation in NRXN1 in a patient with SCZ, and other potential pathogenic ASD mutations. These truncating mutations result in proteins that fail to promote synaptic differentiation in neuron coculture and fail to bind either of the established postsynaptic binding partners LRRTM2 or NLGN2 in cell binding assays. Our findings link NRXN2 disruption to the pathogenesis of ASD for the first time and further strengthen the involvement of NRXN1 in SCZ, supporting the notion of a common genetic mechanism in these disorders.
Copy number variants (CNVs) have a major role in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and several of these have reached statistical significance in case–control analyses. Nevertheless, current ASD cohorts are not large enough to detect very rare CNVs that may be causative or contributory (that is, risk alleles). Here, we use a tiered approach, in which clinically significant CNVs are first identified in large clinical cohorts of neurodevelopmental disorders (including but not specific to ASD), after which these CNVs are then systematically identified within well-characterized ASD cohorts. We focused our initial analysis on 48 recurrent CNVs (segmental duplication-mediated ‘hotspots') from 24 loci in 31 516 published clinical cases with neurodevelopmental disorders and 13 696 published controls, which yielded a total of 19 deletion CNVs and 11 duplication CNVs that reached statistical significance. We then investigated the overlap of these 30 CNVs in a combined sample of 3955 well-characterized ASD cases from three published studies. We identified 73 deleterious recurrent CNVs, including 36 deletions from 11 loci and 37 duplications from seven loci, for a frequency of 1 in 54; had we considered the ASD cohorts alone, only 58 CNVs from eight loci (24 deletions from three loci and 34 duplications from five loci) would have reached statistical significance. In conclusion, until there are sufficiently large ASD research cohorts with enough power to detect very rare causative or contributory CNVs, data from larger clinical cohorts can be used to infer the likely clinical significance of CNVs in ASD.
autism; chromosomal microarray; copy number variant; deletion; duplication; pathogenic
Copy number variants (CNVs) have a major role in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and several of these have reached statistical significance in case–control analyses. Nevertheless, current ASD cohorts are not large enough to detect very rare CNVs that may be causative or contributory (that is, risk alleles). Here, we use a tiered approach, in which clinically significant CNVs are first identified in large clinical cohorts of neurodevelopmental disorders (including but not specific to ASD), after which these CNVs are then systematically identified within well-characterized ASD cohorts. We focused our initial analysis on 48 recurrent CNVs (segmental duplication-mediated ‘hotspots’) from 24 loci in 31 516 published clinical cases with neurodevelopmental disorders and 13 696 published controls, which yielded a total of 19 deletion CNVs and 11 duplication CNVs that reached statistical significance. We then investigated the overlap of these 30 CNVs in a combined sample of 3955 well-characterized ASD cases from three published studies. We identified 73 deleterious recurrent CNVs, including 36 deletions from 11 loci and 37 duplications from seven loci, for a frequency of 1 in 54; had we considered the ASD cohorts alone, only 58 CNVs from eight loci (24 deletions from three loci and 34 duplications from five loci) would have reached statistical significance. In conclusion, until there are sufficiently large ASD research cohorts with enough power to detect very rare causative or contributory CNVs, data from larger clinical cohorts can be used to infer the likely clinical significance of CNVs in ASD.
autism; chromosomal microarray; copy number variant; deletion; duplication; pathogenic
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder with a prevalence of 0.9–2.6%. Twin studies showed a heritability of 38–90%, indicating strong genetic contributions. Yet it is unclear how many genes have been associated with ASD and how strong the evidence is. A comprehensive review and analysis of literature and data may bring a clearer big picture of autism genetics. We show that as many as 2193 genes, 2806 SNPs/VNTRs, 4544 copy number variations (CNVs) and 158 linkage regions have been associated with ASD by GWAS, genome-wide CNV studies, linkage analyses, low-scale genetic association studies, expression profiling and other low-scale experimental studies. To evaluate the evidence, we collected metadata about each study including clinical and demographic features, experimental design and statistical significance, and used a scoring and ranking approach to select a core data set of 434 high-confidence genes. The genes mapped to pathways including neuroactive ligand–receptor interaction, synapse transmission and axon guidance. To better understand the genes we parsed over 30 databases to retrieve extensive data about expression patterns, protein interactions, animal models and pharmacogenetics. We constructed a MySQL-based online database and share it with the broader autism research community at http://autismkb.cbi.pku.edu.cn, supporting sophisticated browsing and searching functionalities.
Copy number variations (CNVs) are a major cause of genetic disruption in the human genome with far more nucleotides being altered by duplications and deletions than by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In the multifaceted etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), CNVs appear to contribute significantly to our understanding of the pathogenesis of this complex disease. A unique resource of 42 extended ASD families was genotyped for over 1 million SNPs to detect CNVs that may contribute to ASD susceptibility. Each family has at least one avuncular or cousin pair with ASD. Families were then evaluated for co-segregation of CNVs in ASD patients. We identified a total of five deletions and seven duplications in eleven families that co-segregated with ASD. Two of the CNVs overlap with regions on 7p21.3 and 15q24.1 that have been previously reported in ASD individuals and two additional CNVs on 3p26.3 and 12q24.32 occur near regions associated with schizophrenia. These findings provide further evidence for the involvement of ICA1 and NXPH1 on 7p21.3 in ASD susceptibility and highlight novel ASD candidates, including CHL1, FGFBP3 and POUF41. These studies highlight the power of using extended families for gene discovery in traits with a complex etiology.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly heritable, and six genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of ASDs have been published to date. In this study, we have integrated the findings from these GWASs with other genetic data to identify enriched genetic networks that are associated with ASDs. We conducted bioinformatics and systematic literature analyses of 200 top-ranked ASD candidate genes from five published GWASs. The sixth GWAS was used for replication and validation of our findings. Further corroborating evidence was obtained through rare genetic variant studies, that is, exome sequencing and copy number variation (CNV) studies, and/or other genetic evidence, including candidate gene association, microRNA and gene expression, gene function and genetic animal studies. We found three signaling networks regulating steroidogenesis, neurite outgrowth and (glutamatergic) synaptic function to be enriched in the data. Most genes from the five GWASs were also implicated—independent of gene size—in ASDs by at least one other line of genomic evidence. Importantly, A-kinase anchor proteins (AKAPs) functionally integrate signaling cascades within and between these networks. The three identified protein networks provide an important contribution to increasing our understanding of the molecular basis of ASDs. In addition, our results point towards the AKAPs as promising targets for developing novel ASD treatments.
A-kinase anchor proteins; autism spectrum disorders; genetics; genome-wide association studies
Recent array-based studies have detected a wealth of copy number variations (CNVs) in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Since CNVs also occur in healthy individuals, their contributions to the patient’s phenotype remain largely unclear. In a cohort of children with symptoms of ASD, diagnosis of the index patient using ADOS-G and ADI-R was performed, and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) was administered to the index patients, both parents, and all available siblings. CNVs were identified using SNP arrays and confirmed by FISH or array CGH. To evaluate the clinical significance of CNVs, we analyzed three families with multiple affected children (multiplex) and six families with a single affected child (simplex) in which at least one child carried a CNV with a brain-transcribed gene. CNVs containing genes that participate in pathways previously implicated in ASD, such as the phosphoinositol signaling pathway (PIK3CA, GIRDIN), contactin-based networks of cell communication (CNTN6), and microcephalin (MCPH1) were found not to co-segregate with ASD phenotypes. In one family, a loss of CNTN5 co-segregated with disease. This indicates that most CNVs may by themselves not be sufficient to cause ASD, but still may contribute to the phenotype by additive or epistatic interactions with inherited (transmitted) mutations or non-genetic factors. Our study extends the scope of genome-wide CNV profiling beyond de novo CNVs in sporadic patients and may aid in uncovering missing heritability in genome-wide screening studies of complex psychiatric disorders.
Autism; Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS); SNP array-based CNV profiling; Gene prioritization; Phosphoinositol signaling; Contactin genes
Structural and sequence variation have been described in several members of the contactin (CNTN) and contactin associated protein (CNTNAP) gene families in association with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism. Using array comparative genome hybridization (CGH), we identified a maternally inherited ~535 kb deletion at 3p26.3 encompassing the 5′ end of the contactin 4 gene (CNTN4) in a patient with autism. Based on this finding and previous reports implicating genomic rearrangements of CNTN4 in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and 3p− microdeletion syndrome, we undertook sequencing of the coding regions of the gene in a local ASD cohort in comparison with a set of controls. Unique missense variants were identified in 4/75 unrelated individuals with an ASD, as well as in 1/107 controls. All of the amino acid substitutions were nonsynonomous, occurred at evolutionarily conserved positions, and were, thus, felt likely to be deleterious. However, these data did not reach statistical significance, nor did the variants segregate with disease within all of the ASD families. Finally, there was no detectable difference in binding of two of the variants to the interacting protein PTPRG in vitro. Thusadditional, larger studies will be necessary to determine whether CNTN4 functions as an autism susceptibility locus in combination with other genetic and/or environmental factors.
contactin 4; autism; autism spectrum disorder; 3p26 deletion; contactins; susceptibility locus
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.
AGRE; autism genetics; autism spectrum disorders; bibliome mining
Comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) studies have suggested that rare copy number variations (CNVs) at numerous loci are involved in the etiology of mental retardation (MR), autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and schizophrenia.
The goal of the present paper was (i) to provide an estimate of the collective frequency of a set of recurrent/overlapping CNVs in three different groups of patients as compared with healthy controls and (ii) to assess whether each CNV is present in more than one clinical category.
Design, setting and population
We have investigated 28 candidate loci previously identified by array-CGH studies for gene dosage alteration in 247 subjects with MR, 260 with ASD, 236 with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 236 healthy controls.
Main outcome measures
Collective and individual frequency of the analyzed CNVs in patients as compared with controls.
Recurrent or overlapping CNVs were found in patients at 40% of the selected loci. We show that the collective frequency of CNVs at these loci is significantly increased in autistic patients, patients with schizophrenia and patients with MR as compared with controls (p= 0.005, p< 0.001 and p= 0.001 respectively, Fisher exact test). Individual significance (p= 0.02) was reached for association between autism and a 350 kb deletion located in 22q11 and spanning the PRODH gene.
These results support the hypothesis that weakly to moderately recurrent CNVs, either transmitted or occurring de novo, are causing or contributory factors for these diseases. Second, we show that most of these CNVs, which contain genes involved in neurotransmission or synapse formation and maintenance, are present in the 3 pathological conditions, supporting the existence of shared biological pathways between these neurodevelopmental disorders.
Adolescent; Adult; Autistic Disorder; diagnosis; genetics; Case-Control Studies; Chromosome Mapping; statistics & numerical data; Comparative Genomic Hybridization; statistics & numerical data; Female; Gene Dosage; genetics; Gene Frequency; Genotype; Humans; In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence; statistics & numerical data; Male; Mental Retardation; diagnosis; genetics; Neurogenesis; Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis; Proline; blood; Psychotic Disorders; diagnosis; genetics; Schizophrenia; diagnosis; genetics
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder of the central nervous system of largely unknown aetiology. The prevalence of the syndrome underscores the need for biological markers and a clearer understanding of pathogenesis. For these reasons, a genetic study of idiopathic ASD was undertaken.
Methods and results:
Array based comparative genomic hybridisation identified a paternally inherited chromosome 3 copy number variation (CNV) in three subjects: a deletion in two siblings and a duplication in a third, unrelated individual. These variations were fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) validated and the end points further delineated using a custom fine tiling oligonucleotide array. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products unique to the rearrangements were amplified and sequence analysis revealed the variations to have resulted from Alu Y mediated unequal recombinations interrupting contactin 4 (CNTN4).
CNTN4 plays an essential role in the formation, maintenance, and plasticity of neuronal networks. Disruption of this gene is known to cause developmental delay and mental retardation. This report suggests that mutations affecting CNTN4 function may be relevant to ASD pathogenesis.
Recent genomic research into autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has revealed a remarkably complex genetic architecture. Large numbers of common variants, copy number variations and single nucleotide variants have been identified, yet each of them individually afforded only a small phenotypic impact. A polygenic model in which multiple genes interact either in an additive or a synergistic way appears the most plausible for the majority of ASD patients. Based on recently identified ASD candidate genes, transgenic mouse models for neuroligins/neurorexins and genes such as Cntnap2, Cntn5, Tsc1, Tsc2, Akt3, Cyfip1, Scn1a, En2, Slc6a4, and Bckdk have been generated and studied with respect to behavioral and neuroanatomical phenotypes and sensitivity to drug treatments. From these models, a few clues for potential pharmacologic intervention emerged. The Fmr1, Shank2 and Cntn5 knockout mice exhibited alterations of glutamate receptors, which may become a target for pharmacologic modulation. Some of the phenotypes of Mecp2 knockout mice can be ameliorated by administering IGF1. In the near future, comprehensive genotyping of individual patients and siblings combined with the novel insights generated from the transgenic animal studies may provide us with personalized treatment options. Eventually, autism may indeed turn out to be a phenotypically heterogeneous group of disorders (‘autisms’) caused by combinations of changes in multiple possible candidate genes, being different in each patient and requiring for each combination of mutations a distinct, individually tailored treatment.
Autism; Copy number variation; Personalized medicine; Polygenic mode; Single nucleotide variation; Transgenic mouse models
Copy number variations (CNVs) can contribute to variable degrees of fitness and/or disease predisposition. Recent studies show that at least 1% of any given genome is copy number variable when compared to the human reference sequence assembly. Homozygous deletions (or CNV nulls) that are found in the normal population are of particular interest because they may serve to define non-essential genes in human biology.
In a genomic screen investigating CNV in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) we detected a heterozygous deletion on chromosome 10p12.1, spanning the Patched-domain containing 3 (PTCHD3) gene, at a frequency of ~1.4% (6/427). This finding seemed interesting, given recent discoveries on the role of another Patched-domain containing gene (PTCHD1) in ASD. Screening of another 177 ASD probands yielded two additional heterozygous deletions bringing the frequency to 1.3% (8/604). The deletion was found at a frequency of ~0.73% (27/3,695) in combined control population from North America and Northern Europe predominately of European ancestry. Screening of the human genome diversity panel (HGDP-CEPH) covering worldwide populations yielded deletions in 7/1,043 unrelated individuals and those detected were confined to individuals of European/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern ancestry. Breakpoint mapping yielded an identical 102,624 bp deletion in all cases and controls tested, suggesting a common ancestral event. Interestingly, this CNV occurs at a break of synteny between humans and mouse. Considering all data, however, no significant association of these rare PTCHD3 deletions with ASD was observed. Notwithstanding, our RNA expression studies detected PTCHD3 in several tissues, and a novel shorter isoform for PTCHD3 was characterized. Expression in transfected COS-7 cells showed PTCHD3 isoforms colocalize with calnexin in the endoplasmic reticulum. The presence of a patched (Ptc) domain suggested a role for PTCHD3 in various biological processes mediated through the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway. However, further investigation yielded one individual harboring a homozygous deletion (PTCHD3 null) without ASD or any other overt abnormal phenotype. Exon sequencing of PTCHD3 in other individuals with deletions revealed compound point mutations also resulting in a null state.
Our data suggests that PTCHD3 may be a non-essential gene in some humans and characterization of this novel CNV at 10p12.1 will facilitate population and disease studies.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and restricted interests and behaviors. Despite high estimates of heritability, genetic causes of ASD have long been elusive, due in part to a high degree of genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity (Bailey et al., 1995). Recently, important advances have been made in the genetics of ASD with the use of new technologies for the direct detection of copy number variation (CNV) in the human genome. CNV studies have revealed that de novo deletions and duplications, typically less than 1 Mb in size, are strongly associated with ASD, suggesting that spontaneous structural mutations play a more important role in the etiology of disease than was previously recognized. Rare mutations have been identified at many different locations in the genome, and multiple ‘hot spots’ have been identified where identical rearrangements recur with high frequency. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that autism, like mental retardation, is caused by a large number of individually rare mutations. These studies serve as a model for how other emerging technologies for mutation detection (e.g. next generation sequencing platforms) could be used to further elucidate the role of rare sequence changes in ASD.
The development of genetic technologies has led to the identification of several copy number variations (CNVs) in the human genome. Genome rearrangements affect dosage-sensitive gene expression in normal brain development. There is strong evidence associating human psychiatric disorders, especially autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia to genetic risk factors and accumulated CNV risk loci. Deletions in 1q21, 3q29, 15q13, 17p12, and 22q11, as well as duplications in 16p11, 16p13, and 15q11-13 have been reported as recurrent CNVs in ASD and/or schizophrenia. Chromosome engineering can be a useful technology to reflect human diseases in animal models, especially CNV-based psychiatric disorders. This system, based on the Cre/loxP strategy, uses large chromosome rearrangement such as deletion, duplication, inversion, and translocation. Although it is hard to reflect human pathophysiology in animal models, some aspects of molecular pathways, brain anatomy, cognitive, and behavioral phenotypes can be addressed. Some groups have created animal models of psychiatric disorders, ASD, and schizophrenia, which are based on human CNV. These mouse models display some brain anatomical and behavioral abnormalities, providing insight into human neuropsychiatric disorders that will contribute to novel drug screening for these devastating disorders.
Copy number variants (CNVs) are thought to play an important role in the predisposition to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, their relatively low frequency and widespread genomic distribution complicates their accurate characterization and utilization for clinical genetics purposes. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of multi-study, genome-wide CNV data from AutDB (http://mindspec.org/autdb.html), a genetic database that accommodates detailed annotations of published scientific reports of CNVs identified in ASD individuals. Overall, we evaluated 4,926 CNVs in 2,373 ASD subjects from 48 scientific reports, encompassing ∼2.12×109 bp of genomic data. Remarkable variation was seen in CNV size, with duplications being significantly larger than deletions, (P = 3×10−105; Wilcoxon rank sum test). Examination of the CNV burden across the genome revealed 11 loci with a significant excess of CNVs among ASD subjects (P<7×10−7). Altogether, these loci covered 15,610 kb of the genome and contained 166 genes. Remarkable variation was seen both in locus size (20 - 4950 kb), and gene content, with seven multigenic (≥3 genes) and four monogenic loci. CNV data from control populations was used to further refine the boundaries of these ASD susceptibility loci. Interestingly, our analysis indicates that 15q11.2-13.3, a genomic region prone to chromosomal rearrangements of various sizes, contains three distinct ASD susceptibility CNV loci that vary in their genomic boundaries, CNV types, inheritance patterns, and overlap with CNVs from control populations. In summary, our analysis of AutDB CNV data provides valuable insights into the genomic characteristics of ASD susceptibility CNV loci and could therefore be utilized in various clinical settings and facilitate future genetic research of this disorder.
Obesity is an increasingly common disorder that predisposes to several medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes. We investigated whether large and rare copy-number variations (CNVs) differentiate moderate to extreme obesity from never-overweight control subjects.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays, we performed a genome-wide CNV survey on 430 obese case subjects (BMI >35 kg/m2) and 379 never-overweight control subjects (BMI <25 kg/m2). All subjects were of European ancestry and were genotyped on the Illumina HumanHap550 arrays with ∼550,000 SNP markers. The CNV calls were generated by PennCNV software.
CNVs >1 Mb were found to be overrepresented in case versus control subjects (odds ratio [OR] = 1.5 [95% CI 0.5–5]), and CNVs >2 Mb were present in 1.3% of the case subjects but were absent in control subjects (OR = infinity [95% CI 1.2–infinity]). When focusing on rare deletions that disrupt genes, even more pronounced effect sizes are observed (OR = 2.7 [95% CI 0.5–27.1] for CNVs >1 Mb). Interestingly, obese case subjects who carry these large CNVs have moderately high BMI and do not appear to be extreme cases. Several CNVs disrupt known candidate genes for obesity, such as a 3.3-Mb deletion disrupting NAP1L5 and a 2.1-Mb deletion disrupting UCP1 and IL15.
Our results suggest that large CNVs, especially rare deletions, confer risk of obesity in patients with moderate obesity and that genes impacted by large CNVs represent intriguing candidates for obesity that warrant further study.