While numerous studies have implicated copy number variants (CNVs) in a range of neurological phenotypes, the impact relative to disease severity has been difficult to ascertain due to small sample sizes, lack of phenotypic details, and heterogeneity in platforms used for discovery. Using a customized microarray enriched for genomic hotspots, we assayed for large CNVs among 1,227 individuals with various neurological deficits including dyslexia (376), sporadic autism (350), and intellectual disability (ID) (501), as well as 337 controls. We show that the frequency of large CNVs (>1 Mbp) is significantly greater for ID–associated phenotypes compared to autism (p = 9.58×10−11, odds ratio = 4.59), dyslexia (p = 3.81×10−18, odds ratio = 14.45), or controls (p = 2.75×10−17, odds ratio = 13.71). There is a striking difference in the frequency of rare CNVs (>50 kbp) in autism (10%, p = 2.4×10−6, odds ratio = 6) or ID (16%, p = 3.55×10−12, odds ratio = 10) compared to dyslexia (2%) with essentially no difference in large CNV burden among dyslexia patients compared to controls. Rare CNVs were more likely to arise de novo (64%) in ID when compared to autism (40%) or dyslexia (0%). We observed a significantly increased large CNV burden in individuals with ID and multiple congenital anomalies (MCA) compared to ID alone (p = 0.001, odds ratio = 2.54). Our data suggest that large CNV burden positively correlates with the severity of childhood disability: ID with MCA being most severely affected and dyslexics being indistinguishable from controls. When autism without ID was considered separately, the increase in CNV burden was modest compared to controls (p = 0.07, odds ratio = 2.33).
Deletions and duplications, termed copy number variants (CNVs), have been implicated in a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders including intellectual disability (ID), autism, and schizophrenia. Our understanding of the relevance of large, rare CNVs in a range of neurodevelopmental phenotypes, varying in severity and prevalence, has been difficult because these studies were restricted to the analysis of one disorder at a time using different CNV detection platforms, insufficient sample sizes, and a lack of detailed clinical information. We tested 1,227 individuals with different neurological diseases including dyslexia, autism, and ID using the same CNV detection platform. We observed striking differences in CNV burden and inheritance characteristics among these cohorts and show that ID is the primary correlate of large CNV burden. This correlation is well illustrated by a comparison of autism patients with and without ID—where the latter show only modest increases in large CNV burden compared to controls. We also find significant depletion in the frequency of large CNVs in dyslexia compared to the other cohorts. Further studies on larger sets of individuals using high-resolution arrays and next-generation sequencing are warranted for a detailed understanding of the relative contribution of genetic variants to neurodevelopmental disorders.