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Cytogenet Genome Res. 2011;135(3-4):228-40. doi: 10.1159/000334064. Epub 2011 Nov 12.

Disentangling the myriad genomics of complex disorders, specifically focusing on autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Medical Genetics, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Analyses of structural genome variation by array-CGH have dramatically enhanced our ability to detect copy number variations (CNVs). De novo CNVs and those co-segregating with disease in a family are generally interpreted as pathogenic. Yet, often CNVs, such as recurrent microdeletions in region 15q13.3, are not so clearly pathogenic. Here we discuss potential confounding mechanisms that may lead to the phenotypic pleiotropy of CNVs, such as unmasking of recessive alleles by hemizygous deletions, interaction of CNVs with other loci and genes, genetic epistasis, allelic exclusion, and somatic mosaicism. We illustrate some of these mechanisms with a detailed analysis of recent studies of CNVs involving MCPH1, AUTS2, CNTNAP2, and mutations in GRIN2B. Next we discuss the clinical ramifications of these findings and urge workers to avoid 'diagnostic fatalism' (i.e., halting all genetic investigation after the detection of a single CNV) and address some of the future challenges likely to result from implementations of next generation sequencing techniques.

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