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PeerJ. 2019 Nov 15;7:e7979. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7979. eCollection 2019.

Differences in the importance of microcephaly, dysmorphism, and epilepsy in the detection of pathogenic CNVs in ID and ASD patients.

Author information

1
Department of Medical Genetics, University Hospital Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
2
Department of Medical Genetics/Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Palacky University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
3
Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine/Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Palacky University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
4
Gennet, s.r.o., Prague, Czech Republic.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

Background:

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disabilities (ID) are heterogeneous and complex developmental diseases with significant genetic backgrounds and overlaps of genetic susceptibility loci. Copy number variants (CNVs) are known to be frequent causes of these impairments. However, the clinical heterogeneity of both disorders causes the diagnostic efficacy of CNV analysis to be modest. This could be resolved by stratifying patients according to their clinical features.

Aim:

First, we sought to assess the significance of particular clinical features for the detection of pathogenic CNVs in separate groups of ID and ASD patients and determine whether and how these groups differ from each other in the significance of these variables. Second, we aimed to create a statistical model showing how particular clinical features affect the probability of pathogenic CNV findings.

Method:

We tested a cohort of 204 patients with ID (N = 90) and ASD (N = 114) for the presence of pathogenic CNVs. We stratified both groups according to their clinical features. Fisher's exact test was used to determine the significance of these variables for pathogenic CNV findings. Logistic regression was used to create a statistical model of pathogenic CNV findings.

Results:

The frequency of pathogenic CNV was significantly higher in the ID group than in the ASD group: 18 (19.78%) versus 8 (7%) (p < 0.004). Microcephaly showed a significant association with pathogenic findings in ID patients (p < 0.01) according to Fisher's exact test, whereas epilepsy showed a significant association with pathogenic findings in ASD patients (p < 0.01). The probability of pathogenic CNV findings when epilepsy occurred in ASD patients was more than two times higher than if epilepsy co-occurred with ID (29.6%/14.0%). Facial dysmorphism was a significant variable for detecting pathogenic CNVs in both groups (ID p = 0.05, ASD p = 0.01). However, dysmorphism increased the probability of pathogenic CNV detection in the ID group nearly twofold compared to the ASD group (44.4%/23.7%). The presence of macrocephaly in the ASD group showed a 25% probability of pathogenic CNV findings by logistic regression, but this was insignificant according to Fisher's exact test. The probability of detecting pathogenic CNVs decreases up to 1% in the absence of dysmorphism, macrocephaly, and epilepsy in the ASD group.

Conclusion:

Dysmorphism, microcephaly, and epilepsy increase the probability of pathogenic CNV findings in ID and ASD patients. The significance of each feature as a predictor for pathogenic CNV detection differs depending on whether the patient has only ASD or ID. The probability of pathogenic CNV findings without dysmorphism, macrocephaly, or epilepsy in ASD patients is low. Therefore the efficacy of CNV analysis is limited in these patients.

KEYWORDS:

ADHD; Autism spectrum disorders; CNV; Congenital malformations; Epilepsy; Facial dysmorphia; Growth defects; Intellectual disabilities; Macrocephaly; Microcephaly

Conflict of interest statement

Vera Becvarova and Marie Trkova are employed by Gennet, s. r. o. The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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