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BMC Genomics. 2017 Apr 20;18(1):315. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3667-9.

Cross-disorder comparative analysis of comorbid conditions reveals novel autism candidate genes.

Author information

1
Division of Systems Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 1265 Welch Road, Stanford, CA, 94305-5488, USA.
2
Division of Systems Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
3
Systems Biology Unit, Department of Experimental Biology, University of Jaén, Jaén, Spain.
4
Division of Systems Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 1265 Welch Road, Stanford, CA, 94305-5488, USA. dpwall@stanford.edu.
5
Division of Systems Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. dpwall@stanford.edu.
6
Department of Biomedical Data Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. dpwall@stanford.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Numerous studies have highlighted the elevated degree of comorbidity associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These comorbid conditions may add further impairments to individuals with autism and are substantially more prevalent compared to neurotypical populations. These high rates of comorbidity are not surprising taking into account the overlap of symptoms that ASD shares with other pathologies. From a research perspective, this suggests common molecular mechanisms involved in these conditions. Therefore, identifying crucial genes in the overlap between ASD and these comorbid disorders may help unravel the common biological processes involved and, ultimately, shed some light in the understanding of autism etiology.

RESULTS:

In this work, we used a two-fold systems biology approach specially focused on biological processes and gene networks to conduct a comparative analysis of autism with 31 frequently comorbid disorders in order to define a multi-disorder subcomponent of ASD and predict new genes of potential relevance to ASD etiology. We validated our predictions by determining the significance of our candidate genes in high throughput transcriptome expression profiling studies. Using prior knowledge of disease-related biological processes and the interaction networks of the disorders related to autism, we identified a set of 19 genes not previously linked to ASD that were significantly differentially regulated in individuals with autism. In addition, these genes were of potential etiologic relevance to autism, given their enriched roles in neurological processes crucial for optimal brain development and function, learning and memory, cognition and social behavior.

CONCLUSIONS:

Taken together, our approach represents a novel perspective of autism from the point of view of related comorbid disorders and proposes a model by which prior knowledge of interaction networks may enlighten and focus the genome-wide search for autism candidate genes to better define the genetic heterogeneity of ASD.

KEYWORDS:

Autism Spectrum Disorder; Autism sibling disorders; Comparative network analysis; Gene set enrichment; Process enrichment; Systems biology

PMID:
28427329
PMCID:
PMC5399393
DOI:
10.1186/s12864-017-3667-9
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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