Rare coding variation provides insight into the genetic architecture and phenotypic context of autism

Nat Genet. 2022 Sep;54(9):1320-1331. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01104-0. Epub 2022 Aug 18.


Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) carry functional mutations rarely observed in the general population. We explored the genes disrupted by these variants from joint analysis of protein-truncating variants (PTVs), missense variants and copy number variants (CNVs) in a cohort of 63,237 individuals. We discovered 72 genes associated with ASD at false discovery rate (FDR) ≤ 0.001 (185 at FDR ≤ 0.05). De novo PTVs, damaging missense variants and CNVs represented 57.5%, 21.1% and 8.44% of association evidence, while CNVs conferred greatest relative risk. Meta-analysis with cohorts ascertained for developmental delay (DD) (n = 91,605) yielded 373 genes associated with ASD/DD at FDR ≤ 0.001 (664 at FDR ≤ 0.05), some of which differed in relative frequency of mutation between ASD and DD cohorts. The DD-associated genes were enriched in transcriptomes of progenitor and immature neuronal cells, whereas genes showing stronger evidence in ASD were more enriched in maturing neurons and overlapped with schizophrenia-associated genes, emphasizing that these neuropsychiatric disorders may share common pathways to risk.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder* / genetics
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Mutation