Genetic alterations in shared biological pathways as major risk factor for ASD

April 24, 2014

A substantial proportion of risk for developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD), resides in genes that are part of specific, interconnected biological pathways, according to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who conducted a broad study of almost 2,500 families in the United States and throughout the world. The study, titled "Convergence of Genes and Cellular Pathways Dysregulated in Autism Spectrum Disorders," was first published online in the American Journal of Human Genetics on April 24.

ASD affects about one percent of the population in the United States and is characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication, as well as by repetitive and restricted behaviors. ASD ranges from mild to severe levels of impairment, with cognitive function among individuals from above average to intellectual disability.

Previously, ASD has been shown to be highly inheritable, and genomic studies have revealed that that there are various sources of risk for ASD, including large abnormalities in whole chromosomes, deletions or duplications in sections of DNA – called (CNVs), and even changes of single nucleotides (SNVs) within a gene; contain instructions to produce proteins that have various functions in the cell.

The researchers reported numerous CNVs affecting genes, and found that these genes are part of similar cellular pathways involved in brain development, synapse function and chromatin regulation. Individuals with ASD carried more of these CNVs than individuals in the control group, and some of them were inherited while others were only present in offspring with ASD.

An earlier study, results of which were first published in 2010, highlighted a subset of these findings within a cohort of approximately 1,000 families in the U.S. and Europe; this larger study has expanded that cohort to nearly 2,500 families, each comprising "trios" of two parents and one child. By further aggregating CNVs and SNVs (the latter identified in other studies), Mount Sinai researchers discovered many additional genes and pathways involved in ASD.

"We hope that these new findings will help group individuals with ASD based upon their genetic causes and lead to earlier diagnosis, and smarter, more focused therapies and interventions for ," said first author Dalila Pinto, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Pinto is a Seaver Foundation Faculty Fellow, and a member of the Mindich Child Health & Development Institute, the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, and the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; other Mount Sinai researchers on this study include Mafalda Barbosa, Graduate Student in Psychiatry; Xiao Xu, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychiatry; Alexander Kolevzon, MD, Clinical Director of the Seaver Autism Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics; and Joseph D. Buxbaum, PhD, Director of the Seaver Autism Center, Vice Chair for Research in Psychiatry, and Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences.

Explore further: Genetic analysis of individuals with autism finds gene deletions

Related Stories

Genetic analysis of individuals with autism finds gene deletions

October 3, 2013
Using powerful genetic sequencing technology, a team of investigators, led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, scanned the genome of hundreds of individuals, and discovered those diagnosed with ...

Mutations in 3 genes linked to autism spectrum disorders

April 4, 2012
Mutations in three new genes have been linked to autism, according to new studies including one with investigators at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. All three studies include lead investigators of the Autism Sequencing Consortium ...

Study uncovers why autism is more common in males

February 27, 2014
Males are at greater risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), than females, but the underlying reasons have been unclear. A large cohort study published by Cell Press on February 27th ...

Scientists identify genetic link between language impairment and autism

November 7, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—In the first molecular genetic study of families with a history of both language impairment and autism, scientists may have uncovered a shared origin for the two conditions, an important step toward explaining ...

Study explains functional links between autism and genes

June 21, 2012
A pioneering report of genome-wide gene expression in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) finds genetic changes that help explain why one person has an ASD and another does not. The study, published by Cell Press on June 21 ...

25 new autism-related gene variants discovered

January 14, 2013
Genetics researchers have identified 25 additional copy number variations (CNVs)—missing or duplicated stretches of DNA—that occur in some patients with autism. These CNVs, say the researchers, are "high impact": although ...

Recommended for you

Signaling pathway may be key to why autism is more common in boys

October 17, 2017
Researchers aiming to understand why autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are more common in boys have discovered differences in a brain signaling pathway involved in reward learning and motivation that make male mice more vulnerable ...

Whole genome sequencing identifies new genetic signature for autism

October 12, 2017
Autism has genetic roots, but most cases can't be explained by current genetic tests.

Mum's immune response could trigger social deficits for kids with autism

October 10, 2017
The retrospective cohort study of 220 Australian children, conducted between 2011-2014, indicates that a "an immune-mediated subtype" of autism driven by the body's inflammatory and immunological systems may be pivotal, according ...

Largest study to date reveals gender-specific risk of autism occurrence among siblings

September 25, 2017
Having one child with autism is a well-known risk factor for having another one with the same disorder, but whether and how a sibling's gender influences this risk has remained largely unknown.

Faulty cell signaling derails cerebral cortex development, could it lead to autism?

September 20, 2017
As the embryonic brain develops, an incredibly complex cascade of cellular events occur, starting with progenitors - the originating cells that generate neurons and spur proper cortex development. If this cascade malfunctions ...

Predicting atypical development in infants at high risk for autism?

September 12, 2017
New research from the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) identifies a potential biomarker that predicts atypical development in 1- to 2-month-old infants at high ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.