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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2004 Aug 15;129B(1):76-81.

Familial symptom domains in monozygotic siblings with autism.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Autism is characterized by a triad of symptom domains (impaired social interaction, communication deficits, and repetitive behaviors) that vary significantly in their clinical presentation across the population. Within families with more than one affected member, however, discrepant findings exist with regard to symptom variability. Reduced intrafamily variance is of particular importance because it supports an underlying model of genetic heterogeneity in the transmission of autism, and the identification of familial clinical subtypes can be used to select more homogeneous samples for linkage analysis in the future. This study examines whether there are specific features of autism that show decreased variance within 16 families with monozygotic siblings concordant for autism. Evidence for familiality was defined as significantly decreased variance of symptom levels within monozygotic siblingships as compared to between siblingships. Using regression analysis, we demonstrated significant aggregation of symptoms within monozygotic siblingships for two of the three main symptom domains in autism: impairments in communication and social interaction showed significant familiality. Within the repetitive behavior domain, only the categories of circumscribed interests and preoccupation with part-objects showed reduced variance within siblingships. In addition, with the exception of a negative association between the social and behavior domains, partial correlation coefficients did not reveal significant associations between the levels of different symptom domains within families, suggesting that the levels of clinical features seen in autism may be a result of mainly independent genetic traits. Because of presumed genetic heterogeneity and the wide clinical variation seen in autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, selecting probands according to specific features known to show reduced variance within families may provide more homogeneous samples for genetic analysis and strengthen the power to detect the specific genes involved in autism.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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