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Date: 30 May 2012

Association testing of copy number variants in schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders

Abstract

Background

Autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia have been associated with an overlapping set of copy number variant loci, but the nature and degree of overlap in copy number variants (deletions compared to duplications) between these two disorders remains unclear.

Methods

We systematically evaluated three lines of evidence: (1) the statistical bases for associations of autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia with a set of the primary CNVs thus far investigated, from previous studies; (2) data from case series studies on the occurrence of these CNVs in autism spectrum disorders, especially among children, and (3) data on the extent to which the CNVs were associated with intellectual disability and developmental, speech, or language delays. We also conducted new analyses of existing data on these CNVs in autism by pooling data from seven case control studies.

Results

Four of the CNVs considered, dup 1q21.1, dup 15q11-q13, del 16p11.2, and dup 22q11.21, showed clear statistical evidence as autism risk factors, whereas eight CNVs, del 1q21.1, del 3q29, del 15q11.2, del 15q13.3, dup 16p11.2, dup 16p13.1, del 17p12, and del 22q11.21, were strongly statistically supported as risk factors for schizophrenia. Three of the CNVs, dup 1q21.1, dup 16p11.2, and dup 16p13.1, exhibited statistical support as risk factors for both autism and schizophrenia, although for each of these CNVs statistical significance was nominal for tests involving one of the two disorders. For the CNVs that were statistically associated with schizophrenia but were not statistically associated with autism, a notable number of children with the CNVs have been diagnosed with autism or ASD; children with these CNVs also demonstrate a high incidence of intellectual disability and developmental, speech, or language delays.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that although CNV loci notably overlap between autism and schizophrenia, the degree of strongly statistically supported overlap in specific CNVs at these loci remains limited. These analyses also suggest that relatively severe premorbidity to CNV-associated schizophrenia in children may sometimes be diagnosed as autism spectrum disorder.