MAOA, DBH, and SLC6A4 variants in CHARGE: a case-control study of autism spectrum disorders

Autism Res. 2011 Aug;4(4):250-61. doi: 10.1002/aur.196. Epub 2011 Apr 29.


Genetic factors are established to contribute to the development of autism. We examined three loci, serotonin transporter (SLC6A4), dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH), and the variable number of tandem repeat promoter of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) for association with autism in participants from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE ) Study, the first large-scale population-based case-control investigation of both environmental and genetic contributions to autism risk. Among male children enrolled in the CHARGE study we tested associations between each of the three polymorphisms and autism (AU) (n = 119), or a combined group of autism and other autism spectrum disorders (AU+ASD, which includes an additional n = 53) as compared with typically developing controls (TD, n = 137). The case-control association analysis showed neither SLC6A4 nor DBH to be statistically significantly associated with AU or ASD. However, the male children carrying 4 tandem repeats in the promoter region of the MAOA gene showed a two-fold higher risk of AU (or AU+ASD) than those carrying allele 3, adjusted for confounders (OR = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.12, 3.65, P = 0.02 for AU vs. TD, and OR = 2.05, 95% CI = 1.19, 3.53, P = 0.01 for ASD vs. TD). In addition, children of mothers homozygous for the 4 tandem repeat allele showed at least a three-fold higher risk of AU (or AU+ASD) than those with mothers homozygous for allele 3 (OR = 3.07, 95% CI = 1.19, 7.91, P = 0.02 for AU vs. TD, and OR = 3.26, 95% CI = 1.35, 7.89, P = 0.009 for AU+ASD vs. TD). These results suggest a potential role of the functional MAOA promoter alleles in the male child, the mother, or both in ASD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / genetics*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / genetics*
  • Environment
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Mothers
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Factors


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase
  • Monoamine Oxidase