Siblings

High-density SNP association study of the 17q21 chromosomal region linked to autism identifies CACNA1G as a novel candidate gene

Source: 
Molecular Psychiatry, Strom, Stone, Bosch, Merriman, Cantor, Geschwind, and Nelson
Date Published: 
May 2009
Year Published: 
2009

(From a UCLA press release) UCLA scientists have discovered a variant of a gene called CACNA1G that may increase a child's risk of developing autism, particularly in boys. "We found that a common form of the gene occurs more frequently in the DNA of families that have two or more sons affected by autism, but no affected daughters," explained Dr. Stanley Nelson, professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The researchers traced the genetic markers to CACNA1G, which helps move calcium between the cells. They discovered that the gene has a common variant that appears in the DNA of nearly 40 percent of the population. "This alternate form of CACNA1G consistently increased the correlation to autism spectrum disorder, suggesting that inheriting the gene may heighten a child's risk of developing autism," observed Nelson. How the gene contributes to higher autism risk remains unclear, but Nelson emphasized that it cannot be considered a risk factor on its own. "This variant is a single piece of the puzzle," he said. "We need a larger sample size to identify all of the genes involved in autism and to solve the whole puzzle of this disease." The UCLA team's next step will be to sequence the gene in people who possess the altered variant in order to identify the exact change that increases autism risk. These subtle variations offer potential markers for the real mutation causing greater susceptibility to the disease.

Structural Variation of Chromosomes in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Source: 
American Journal of Human Genetics, Marshall, Noor, et al
Date Published: 
2008
Year Published: 
2008

Structural variation (copy number variation [CNV] including deletion and duplication, translocation, inversion) of chromosomes has been identified in some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the full etiologic role is unknown. We performed genome-wide assessment for structural abnormalities in 427 unrelated ASD cases via single-nucleotide polymorphism microarrays and karyotyping. With microarrays, we discovered 277 unbalanced CNVs in 44% of ASD families not present in 500 controls (and re-examined in another 1152 controls). Karyotyping detected additional balanced changes. Although most variants were inherited, we found a total of 27 cases with de novo alterations, and in three (11%) of these individuals, two or more new variants were observed. De novo CNVs were found in approximately 7% and approximately 2% of idiopathic families having one child, or two or more ASD siblings, respectively. We also detected 13 loci with recurrent/overlapping CNV in unrelated cases, and at these sites, deletions and duplications affecting the same gene(s) in different individuals and sometimes in asymptomatic carriers were also found. Notwithstanding complexities, our results further implicate the SHANK3-NLGN4-NRXN1 postsynaptic density genes and also identify novel loci at DPP6-DPP10-PCDH9 (synapse complex), ANKRD11, DPYD, PTCHD1, 15q24, among others, for a role in ASD susceptibility. Our most compelling result discovered CNV at 16p11.2 (p = 0.002) (with characteristics of a genomic disorder) at approximately 1% frequency. Some of the ASD regions were also common to mental retardation loci. Structural variants were found in sufficiently high frequency influencing ASD to suggest that cytogenetic and microarray analyses be considered in routine clinical workup.