Autism as a Strongly Genetic Disorder: Evidence from a British Twin Study

ArticleinPsychological Medicine 25(1):63-77 · February 1995with890 Reads
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291700028099 · Source: PubMed
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.
    • "In ASD, some evidence supports the theory that the brain is excessively masculinized [62, 63]. Genetic vulnerability also impacts risk for highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophre- nia [52][53][54]and ASD [64, 65], likely via the combined influence of multiple risk variants. Among the genes which may increase the susceptibility to schizophrenia and ASD is DTNBP1 (dysbindin). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia differentially impact males and females and are highly heritable. The ways in which sex and genetic vulnerability influence the pathogenesis of these disorders are not clearly understood. The n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor pathway has been implicated in schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders and changes dramatically across postnatal development at the level of the GluN2B-GluN2A subunit "switch" (a shift from reliance on GluN2B-containing receptors to reliance on GluN2A-containing receptors). We investigated whether sex and genetic vulnerability (specifically, null mutation of DTNBP1 [dysbindin; a possible susceptibility gene for schizophrenia]) influence the developmental GluN2B-GluN2A switch. Methods: Subcellular fractionation to enrich for postsynaptic density (PSD), together with Western blotting and kinase assay, were used to investigate the GluN2B-GluN2A switch in the cortex and hippocampus of male and female DTNBP1 null mutant mice and their wild-type littermates. Main effects of sex and DTNBP1 genotype, and interactions with age, were assessed using factorial ANOVA. Results: Sex differences in the GluN2B-GluN2A switch emerged across development at the frontal cortical synapse, in parameters related to GluN2B. Males across genotypes displayed higher GluN2B:GluN2A and GluN2B:GluN1 ratios (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01, respectively), higher GluN2B phosphorylation at Y1472 (p < 0.01), and greater abundance of PLCγ (p < 0.01) and Fyn (p = 0.055) relative to females. In contrast, effects of DTNBP1 were evident exclusively in the hippocampus. The developmental trajectory of GluN2B was disrupted in DTNBP1 null mice (genotype × age interaction p < 0.05), which also displayed an increased synaptic GluN2A:GluN1 ratio (p < 0.05) and decreased PLCγ (p < 0.05) and Fyn (only in females; p < 0.0005) compared to wild-types. Conclusions: Sex and DTNBP1 mutation influence the GluN2B-GluN2A switch at the synapse in a brain-region-specific fashion involving pY1472-GluN2B, Fyn, and PLCγ. This highlights the possible mechanisms through which risk factors may mediate their effects on vulnerability to disorders of NMDA receptor dysfunction.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2016
    • "Moreover, ASD patients often exhibit motor deficits, sensorimotor dysfunction, epilepsy and anxiety, and in some cases it has been reported the presence of ADHD symptoms [3][4][5][6][7][8]. Although several twin and family studies proved the existence of significant genetic contributions to the etiology of the ASD [9][10][11][12], the high heritability of specific traits did not facilitate the identification of the specific genetic causes of the disorder [13, 14]. However, recent genome-wide screening of candidate genes has indicated clustering of molecules involved in synaptic signaling and chromatin remodeling as plausible targets [15, 16]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have increased over the last few decades. These neurodevelopmental disorders are characterized by a complex etiology, which involves multiple genes and gene-environmental interactions. Various genes that control specific properties of neural development exert pivotal roles in the occurrence and severity of phenotypes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Moreover, paternal aging has been reported as one of the factors that contribute to the risk of ASD and ADHD. Here we report, for the first time, that paternal aging has profound effects on the onset of behavioral abnormalities in mice carrying a mutation of Pax6, a gene with neurodevelopmental regulatory functions. We adopted an in vitro fertilization approach to restrict the influence of additional factors. Comprehensive behavioral analyses were performed in Sey/+ mice (i.e., Pax6 mutant heterozygotes) born from in vitro fertilization of sperm taken from young or aged Sey/+ fathers. No body weight changes were found in the four groups, i.e., Sey/+ and wild type (WT) mice born to young or aged father. However, we found important differences in maternal separation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations of Sey/+ mice born from young father and in the level of hyperactivity of Sey/+ mice born from aged fathers in the open-field test, respectively, compared to WT littermates. Phenotypes of anxiety were observed in both genotypes born from aged fathers compared with those born from young fathers. No significant difference was found in social behavior and sensorimotor gating among the four groups. These results indicate that mice with a single genetic risk factor can develop different phenotypes depending on the paternal age. Our study advocates for serious considerations on the role of paternal aging in breeding strategies for animal studies.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2016
    • "It was reported a couple of years ago that serum levels of IL-17 were elevated in ASD subjects over control subjects suggesting that T helper 17 (T H 17) cells are involved in the etiology of ASD (Ayadhi and Mostafa, 2012; Onore et al., 2012). T H 17 cells are CD4+ helper T-cells characterized by a unique cytokine profile, mainly high levels of IL-17 thought to be critical for the development of autoimmunity (Bedoya et al., 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The “common variant—common disease” hypothesis was proposed to explain diseases with strong inheritance. This model suggests that a genetic disease is the result of the combination of several common genetic variants. Common genetic variants are described as a 5% frequency differential between diseased vs. matched control populations. This theory was recently supported by an epidemiology paper stating that about 50% of genetic risk for autism resides in common variants. However, rare variants, rather than common variants, have been found in numerous genome wide genetic studies and many have concluded that the “common variant—common disease” hypothesis is incorrect. One interpretation is that rare variants are major contributors to genetic diseases and autism involves the interaction of many rare variants, especially in the brain. It is obvious there is much yet to be learned about autism genetics. Evidence has been mounting over the years indicating immune involvement in autism, particularly the HLA genes on chromosome 6 and KIR genes on chromosome 19. These two large multigene complexes have important immune functions and have been shown to interact to eliminate unwanted virally infected and malignant cells. HLA proteins have important functions in antigen presentation in adaptive immunity and specific epitopes on HLA class I proteins act as cognate ligands for KIR receptors in innate immunity. Data suggests that HLA alleles and KIR activating genes/haplotypes are common variants in different autism populations. For example, class I allele (HLA-A2 and HLA-G 14 bp-indel) frequencies are significantly increased by more than 5% over control populations (Table 2). The HLA-DR4 Class II and shared epitope frequencies are significantly above the control populations (Table 2). Three activating KIR genes: 3DS1, 2DS1, and 2DS2 have increased frequencies of 15, 22, and 14% in autism populations, respectively. There is a 6% increase in total activating KIR genes in autism over control subjects. And, more importantly there is a 12% increase in activating KIR genes and their cognate HLA alleles over control populations (Torres et al., 2012a). These data suggest the interaction of HLA ligand/KIR receptor pairs encoded on two different chromosomes is more significant as a ligand/receptor complex than separately in autism.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2016
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