Advanced paternal age as a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders: a translational study

Mol Autism. 2020 Jun 23;11(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s13229-020-00345-2.


Advanced paternal age (APA) is a risk factor for several neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. The potential mechanisms conferring this risk are poorly understood. Here, we show that the personality traits schizotypy and neuroticism correlated with paternal age in healthy subjects (N = 677). Paternal age was further positively associated with gray matter volume (VBM, N = 342) in the right prefrontal and the right medial temporal cortex. The integrity of fiber tracts (DTI, N = 222) connecting these two areas correlated positively with paternal age. Genome-wide methylation analysis in humans showed differential methylation in APA individuals, linking APA to epigenetic mechanisms. A corresponding phenotype was obtained in our rat model. APA rats displayed social-communication deficits and emitted fewer pro-social ultrasonic vocalizations compared to controls. They further showed repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, together with higher anxiety during early development. At the neurobiological level, microRNAs miR-132 and miR-134 were both differentially regulated in rats and humans depending on APA. This study demonstrates associations between APA and social behaviors across species. They might be driven by changes in the expression of microRNAs and/or epigenetic changes regulating neuronal plasticity, leading to brain morphological changes and fronto-hippocampal connectivity, a network which has been implicated in social interaction.

Keywords: Advanced paternal age (APA); Diffusion tension imaging (DTI); Social behavior; Ultrasonic vocalization; Voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't