Genome-wide association study of autistic-like traits in a general population study of young adults

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 11;7:658. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00658. eCollection 2013.


Lay abstract: It has been proposed that autistic-like traits in the general population lie on a continuum, with clinical Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), representing the extreme end of this distribution. The current study undertook a genome-wide association (GWA) scan of 965 young Western Australian adults to identify novel risk variants associated with autistic-like traits. No associations reached genome-wide significance; however, a review of nominally associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) indicated two positional candidate loci that have been previously implicated in autistic-like trait etiology. Scientific abstract: Research has proposed that autistic-like traits in the general population lie on a continuum, with clinical ASD representing the extreme end of this distribution. Inherent in this proposal is that biological mechanisms associated with clinical ASD may also underpin variation in autistic-like traits within the general population. A GWA study using 2,462,046 SNPs was undertaken for ASD in 965 individuals from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. No SNP associations reached genome-wide significance (p < 5.0 × 10(-8)). However, investigations into nominal observed SNP associations (p < 1.0 × 10(-5)) add support to two positional candidate genes previously implicated in ASD etiology, PRKCB1, and CBLN1. The rs198198 SNP (p = 9.587 × 10(-6)), is located within an intron of the protein kinase C, beta 1 (PRKCB1) gene on chromosome 16p11. The PRKCB1 gene has been previously reported in linkage and association studies for ASD, and its mRNA expression has been shown to be significantly down regulated in ASD cases compared with controls. The rs16946931 SNP (p = 1.78 × 10(-6)) is located in a region flanking the Cerebellin 1 (CBLN1) gene on chromosome 16q12.1. The CBLN1 gene is involved with synaptogenesis and is part of a gene family previously implicated in ASD. This GWA study is only the second to examine SNPs associated with autistic-like traits in the general population, and provides evidence to support roles for the PRKCB1 and CBLN1 genes in risk of clinical ASD.

Keywords: CBLN1; PRKCB1; autism spectrum disorder; autism spectrum quotient; autistic-like traits; genome-wide association.