Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently comorbid with other neurological disorders such as intellectual disability (ID) or global development delay (GDD) and epilepsy. The pathogenesis of ASD is complex. So far, studies have identified more than 1000 ASD risk genes. Most of them were also reported to relate with other neurological diseases, and only several of them have been confirmed as pathogenic genes for autism. Little is known about the roles of these risk genes in neurological diseases with ASD. In the present study, we recruited a cohort of 158 neurological disorder probands with 163 variants of 48 ASD risk genes. Of these, 50 individuals (31.6%) were diagnosed with ASD. In the ASD patient subset, we identified several rarely reported candidate genes including DOLK, USH2A, and HUWE1. In a comparison of patients with neurological disorders with and without ASD, we found that ID/GDD was frequently comorbid with ASD whereas epilepsy was more common in the non-ASD group. Statistical analyses of all possible risk factors implicated that variants in synaptic genes, especially non-voltage-gated ion channel genes and in transcriptional and chromosome genes were related to ASD, but none of the investigated environmental factors was. Our results are useful for the future diagnosis and prognosis of patients with neurological disorders and emphasize the utility of genetic screening.
Keywords: autism risk gene; autism spectrum disorder; gene function; neurological diseases; risk factors.