Importance: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and repetitive or restrictive behavior. Although multiple physiologic and biochemical studies have reported defects in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in patients with ASD, the role of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation has remained relatively unexplored.
Objective: To assess what impact mitochondrial lineages encompassing ancient mtDNA functional polymorphisms, termed haplogroups, have on ASD risk.
Design, setting, and participants: In this cohort study, individuals with autism and their families were studied using the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange cohort genome-wide association studies data previously generated at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. From October 2010 to January 2017, we analyzed the data and used the mtDNA single-nucleotide polymorphisms interrogated by the Illumina HumanHap 550 chip to determine the mtDNA haplogroups of the individuals. Taking into account the familial structure of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange data, we then determined whether the mtDNA haplogroups correlate with ASD risk.
Main outcomes and measures: Odds ratios of mitochondrial haplogroup as predictors of ASD risk.
Results: Of 1624 patients with autism included in this study, 1299 were boys (80%) and 325 were girls (20%). Families in the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange collection (933 families, encompassing 4041 individuals: 1624 patients with ASD and 2417 healthy parents and siblings) had been previously recruited in the United States with no restrictions on age, sex, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Relative to the most common European haplogroup HHV, European haplogroups I, J, K, O-X, T, and U were associated with increased risk of ASD, as were Asian and Native American haplogroups A and M, with odds ratios ranging from 1.55 (95% CI, 1.16-2.06) to 2.18 (95% CI, 1.59-3) (adjusted P < .04). Hence, mtDNA haplogroup variation is an important risk factor for ASD.
Conclusions and relevance: Because haplogroups I, J, K, O-X, T, and U encompass 55% of the European population, mtDNA lineages must make a significant contribution to overall ASD risk.