Exploring the biological role of postzygotic and germinal de novo mutations in ASD

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 11;11(1):319. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-79412-w.


De novo mutations (DNMs), including germinal and postzygotic mutations (PZMs), are a strong source of causality for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, the biological processes involved behind them remain unexplored. Our aim was to detect DNMs (germinal and PZMs) in a Spanish ASD cohort (360 trios) and to explore their role across different biological hierarchies (gene, biological pathway, cell and brain areas) using bioinformatic approaches. For the majority of the analysis, a combined ASD cohort (N = 2171 trios) was created using previously published data by the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC). New plausible candidate genes for ASD such as FMR1 and NFIA were found. In addition, genes harboring PZMs were significantly enriched for miR-137 targets in comparison with germinal DNMs that were enriched in GO terms related to synaptic transmission. The expression pattern of genes with PZMs was restricted to early mid-fetal cortex. In contrast, the analysis of genes with germinal DNMs revealed a spatio-temporal window from early to mid-fetal development stages, with expression in the amygdala, cerebellum, cortex and striatum. These results provide evidence of the pathogenic role of PZMs and suggest the existence of distinct mechanisms between PZMs and germinal DNMs that are influencing ASD risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exome / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Mutation*


  • MIRN137 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs