Article

Accelerated head growth in early development of individuals with autism.

Department of Medicine and Center for Human Genetics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
Pediatric Neurology (Impact Factor: 1.42). 03/2005; 32(2):102-8. DOI:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2004.08.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Macrocephaly is one of the most consistent physical findings reported in autistic individuals. Previous studies attempted to determine if macrocephaly is associated with risk for autism. This study hypothesizes that an abnormal acceleration in head growth during early development, rather than macrocephaly, is associated with autism risk. To investigate this hypothesis, head circumference data were examined in 251 individuals from 82 multiplex (at least two individuals with autism) and 113 sporadic (no family history) families with autism. This examination included longitudinal measurements for 79 individuals. Nineteen percent of the original 251 individuals were found to have macrocephaly (head circumference >97%). Abnormal acceleration in head growth was defined as an increase of 25 or more percentile points in head circumference between two consecutive measurements. Thirty-five percent of individuals with multiple head circumference records had an abnormal increase in head circumference. Furthermore, autistic individuals with accelerated head growth in early childhood displayed higher levels of adaptive functioning and less social impairment. This study confirms the presence of abnormal acceleration in head growth during the first and second months of life in a subgroup of autistic individuals.

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    ABSTRACT: With a complex and extremely high clinical and genetic heterogeneity, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are better dissected if one takes into account specific endophenotypes. Comorbidity of ASD with epilepsy (or paroxysmal EEG) has long been described and seems to have strong genetic background. Macrocephaly also represents a well-known endophenotype in subgroups of ASD individuals, which suggests pathogenic mechanisms accelerating brain growth in early development and predisposing to the disorder. We attempted to estimate the association of gene variants with neurodevelopmental disorders in patients with autism-epilepsy phenotype (AEP) and cranial overgrowth, analyzing two genes previously reported to be associated with autism and macrocephaly. We analyzed the coding sequences and exon-intron boundaries of GLIALCAM, encoding an IgG-like cell adhesion protein, in 81 individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, either with or without comorbid epilepsy, paroxysmal EEG and/or macrocephaly, and the PTEN gene in the subsample with macrocephaly. Among 81 individuals with ASD, 31 had concurrent macrocephaly. Head circumference, moreover, was over the 99.7th percentile ("extreme" macrocephaly) in 6/31 (19%) patients. Whilst we detected in GLIALCAM several single nucleotide variants without clear pathogenic effects, we found a novel PTEN heterozygous frameshift mutation in one case with "extreme" macrocephaly, autism, intellectual disability and seizures. We did not find a clear association between GLIALCAM mutations and AEP-macrocephaly comorbidity. The identification of a novel frameshift variant of PTEN in a patient with "extreme" macrocephaly, autism, intellectual disability and seizures, confirms this gene as a major candidate in the ASD-macrocephaly endophenotype. The concurrence of epilepsy in the same patient also suggests that PTEN, and the downstream signaling pathway, might deserve to be investigated in autism-epilepsy comorbidity. Working on clinical endophenotypes might be of help to address genetic studies and establish actual causative correlations in autism-epilepsy.
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    ABSTRACT: Frequently individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been noted with a larger head circumference (HC) than their typical developing peers. Biologic hypotheses suggest that an overly rapid brain growth leads to the core symptoms of ASD by impairing connectivity. Literature is divided however where deleterious, protective and null associations of HC with ASD symptoms in individuals with ASD have been found. Individuals (n = 1,416) from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange with ASD were examined for associations of HC with ASD like symptoms. Mixed models controlling for sex, age, race/ethnicity, simplex/multiplex status and accounting for correlations between siblings were used. Interactions by simplex/multiplex were explored. Adjustments for height in a sub-population with available data were explored as well. A Significant interaction term (p = 0.03) suggested that the effect of HC was dependent on whether the individual was simplex or multiplex. In simplex individuals at mean age (8.9 years) 1 cm increase in head circumference was associated with a 24% increase in the odds of a high social diagnostic score from the Autism Diagnostic Interview - Revised (odds ratio = 1.24, p = 0.01). There was no association in multiplex individuals. Additionally, individuals classified with a non-verbal IQ <70 were 90% simplex and had a significantly increased head circumference (0.7 cm p = 0.03) relative to a mid-range non-verbal IQ group. Interestingly, children classified with a >110 non-verbal IQ also had an increased HC (0.4 cm p = 0.04), relative to a mid-range non-verbal IQ group, and were 90% multiplex. HC effects do not appear to be confounded by height, however, larger samples with height information are needed. The potential link between brain growth and autism like symptoms is complex and could depend on specific etiologies. Further investigations accounting for a likely mode of inheritance will help identify an ASD subtype related to HC.
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