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Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(9):1012-7.

Reelin gene alleles and susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders.

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Department of Physiology, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada.


A polymorphic trinucleotide repeat (CGG/GCC) within the human Reelin gene (RELN) was examined as a candidate gene for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This gene encodes a large extracellular matrix protein that orchestrates neuronal positioning during corticogenesis. The CGG-repeat within the 5' untranslated region of RELN exon 1 was examined in 126 multiple-incidence families. The number of CGG repeats varied from three to 16 in affected individuals and controls, with no expansion or contraction observed during maternal (n = 291) or paternal (n = 287) transmissions in families with autistic probands. Although the frequencies of the RELN alleles and genotypes in affected children were not different from those in the comparison group, a family-based association test (FBAT) showed that the larger RELN alleles (> or = 11 repeats) were transmitted more often than expected to affected children (S = 43, E(S) = 34.5, P = 0.035); this was particularly the case for the 13-repeat RELN allele (S = 22, E(S) = 16, P = 0.034). Affected sib-pair (ASP) analysis found no evidence of excess sharing of RELN alleles in affected siblings. The impact of genotypes with large alleles (> or = 11 repeats) on the phenotypes in individuals with ASD was analyzed by ANOVA in a subset of the families for which results of the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised were available. Children with large RELN alleles did not show any difference in scores for questions related to the core symptoms of autistic disorder, but there was a tendency for children with at least one large RELN allele to have an earlier age at first phrase (chi(2) = 3.538, P = 0.06). Thus, although the case-control and affected sib-pair findings did not support a role for RELN in susceptibility to ASD, the more powerful family-based association study demonstrated that RELN alleles with larger numbers of CGG repeats may play a role in the etiology of some cases of ASD, especially in children without delayed phrase speech.

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