Background: Both de novo variants and recessive inherited variants were associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study aimed to use exome data to prioritize recessive inherited genes (RIGs) with biallelically inherited variants in autosomes or X-linked inherited variants in males and investigate the functional relationships between RIGs and genes with de novo variants (DNGs).
Methods: We used a bioinformatics pipeline to analyze whole-exome sequencing data from 1799 ASD quads (containing one proband, one unaffected sibling, and their parents) from the Simons Simplex Collection and prioritize candidate RIGs with rare biallelically inherited variants in autosomes or X-linked inherited variants in males. The relationships between RIGs and DNGs were characterized based on different genetic perspectives, including genetic variants, functional networks, and brain expression patterns.
Results: Among the biallelically or hemizygous constrained genes that were expressed in the brain, ASD probands carried significantly more biallelically inherited protein-truncating variants (PTVs) in autosomes (p = 0.038) and X-linked inherited PTVs in males (p = 0.026) than those in unaffected siblings. We prioritized eight autosomal, and 13 X-linked candidate RIGs, including 11 genes already associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. In total, we detected biallelically inherited variants or X-linked inherited variants of these 21 candidate RIGs in 26 (1.4%) of 1799 probands. We then integrated previously reported known or candidate genes in ASD, ultimately obtaining 70 RIGs and 87 DNGs for analysis. We found that RIGs were less likely to carry multiple recessive inherited variants than DNGs were to carry multiple de novo variants. Additionally, RIGs and DNGs were significantly co-expressed and interacted with each other, forming a network enriched in known functional ASD clusters, although RIGs were less likely to be enriched in these functional clusters compared with DNGs. Furthermore, although RIGs and DNGs presented comparable expression patterns in the human brain, RIGs were less likely to be associated with prenatal brain regions, the middle cortical layers, and excitatory neurons than DNGs.
Limitations: The RIGs analyzed in this study require functional validation, and the results should be replicated in more patients with ASD.
Conclusions: ASD RIGs were functionally associated with DNGs; however, they exhibited higher heterogeneity than DNGs.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; De novo variant; Expression pattern; Functional network; Recessive inherited variant.