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International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC). Further characterization of the autism susceptibility locus AUTS1 on chromosome 7q.

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    ABSTRACT: Two previous epidemiological studies of autistic twins suggested that autism was predominantly genetically determined, although the findings with regard to a broader phenotype of cognitive, and possibly social, abnormalities were contradictory. Obstetric and perinatal hazards were also invoked as environmentally determined aetiological factors. The first British twin sample has been re-examined and a second total population sample of autistic twins recruited. In the combined sample 60% of monozygotic (MZ) pairs were concordant for autism versus no dizygotic (DZ) pairs; 92% of MZ pairs were concordant for a broader spectrum of related cognitive or social abnormalities versus 10% of DZ pairs. The findings indicate that autism is under a high degree of genetic control and suggest the involvement of multiple genetic loci. Obstetric hazards usually appear to be consequences of genetically influenced abnormal development, rather than independent aetiological factors. Few new cases had possible medical aetiologies, refuting claims that recognized disorders are common aetiological influences.
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    ABSTRACT: Family history data on 99 autistic and 36 Down's syndrome probands are reported. They confirmed a raised familial loading for both autism and more broadly defined pervasive developmental disorders in siblings (2.9% and 2.9%, respectively, vs 0% in the Down's group) and also evidence for the familial aggregation of a lesser variant of autism, comprising more subtle communication/social impairments or stereotypic behaviours, but not mental retardation alone. Between 12.4 and 20.4% of the autism siblings and 1.6% and 3.2% of the Down's siblings exhibited this lesser variant, depending on the stringency of its definition. Amongst autistic probands with speech, various features of their disorder (increased number of autistic symptoms; reduced verbal and performance ability) as well as a history of obstetric complications, indexed an elevation in familial loading. No such association was seen in the probands without speech, even though familial loading for the lesser variant in this subgroup, was significantly higher than in the Down's controls. The findings suggest that the autism phenotype extends beyond autism as traditionally diagnosed; that aetiology involves several genes; that autism is genetically heterogeneous; and that obstetric abnormalities in autistic subjects may derive from abnormality in the foetus.
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