Background: XYY syndrome is a sex chromosome aneuploidy that occurs in ~ 1/850 male births and is associated with increased risk for neurodevelopmental difficulties. However, the profile of neurodevelopmental impairments, including symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in XYY remains poorly understood. This gap in knowledge has persisted in part due to lack of access to patient cohorts with dense and homogeneous phenotypic data.
Methods: We evaluated a single-center cohort of 64 individuals with XYY aged 5-25 years, using a standardized battery of cognitive and behavioral assessments spanning developmental milestones, IQ, adaptive behavior, academic achievement, behavioral problems, and gold-standard diagnostic instruments for ASD. Our goals were to (i) detail the neurodevelopmental profile of XYY with a focus on ASD diagnostic rates and symptom profiles, (ii) screen phenotypes for potential ascertainment bias effects by contrasting pre- vs. postnatally diagnosed XYY subgroups, and (iii) define major modules of phenotypic variation using graph-theoretical analysis.
Results: Although there was marked inter-individual variability, the average profile was characterized by some degree of developmental delay, and decreased IQ and adaptive behavior. Impairments were most pronounced for language and socio-communicative functioning. The rate of ASD was 14%, and these individuals exhibited autism symptom profiles resembling those observed in ASD without XYY. Most neurodevelopmental dimensions showed milder impairment among pre- vs. postnatally diagnosed individuals, with clinically meaningful differences in verbal IQ. Feature network analysis revealed three reliably separable modules comprising (i) cognition and academic achievement, (ii) broad domain psychopathology and adaptive behavior, and (iii) ASD-related features.
Conclusions: By adding granularity to our understanding of neurodevelopmental difficulties in XYY, these findings assist targeted clinical assessment of newly identified cases, motivate greater provision of specialized multidisciplinary support, and inform future efforts to integrate behavioral phenotypes in XYY with neurobiology.
Trial registrations: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00001246 , "89-M-0006: Brain Imaging of Childhood Onset Psychiatric Disorders, Endocrine Disorders and Healthy Controls."
Keywords: Adaptive behavior; Autism spectrum disorder symptoms; Cognitive functioning; Learning disabilities; Sex chromosome aneuploidies.