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Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Oct 1;21(19):4356-64. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds267. Epub 2012 Jul 5.

Excess variants in AFF2 detected by massively parallel sequencing of males with autism spectrum disorder.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous disorder with substantial heritability, most of which is unexplained. ASD has a population prevalence of one percent and affects four times as many males as females. Patients with fragile X E (FRAXE) intellectual disability, which is caused by a silencing of the X-linked gene AFF2, display a number of ASD-like phenotypes. Duplications and deletions at the AFF2 locus have also been reported in cases with moderate intellectual disability and ASD. We hypothesized that other rare X-linked sequence variants at the AFF2 locus might contribute to ASD. We sequenced the AFF2 genomic region in 202 male ASD probands and found that 2.5% of males sequenced had missense mutations at highly conserved evolutionary sites. When compared with the frequency of missense mutations in 5545 X chromosomes from unaffected controls, we saw a statistically significant enrichment in patients with ASD (OR: 4.9; P < 0.014). In addition, we identified rare AFF2 3' UTR variants at conserved sites which alter gene expression in a luciferase assay. These data suggest that rare variation in AFF2 may be a previously unrecognized ASD susceptibility locus and may help explain some of the male excess of ASD.

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