Reverse Pathway Genetic Approach Identifies Epistasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006516
Although gene-gene interaction, or epistasis, plays a large role in complex traits in model organisms, genome-wide by genome-wide searches for two-way interaction have limited power in human studies. We thus used knowledge of a biological pathway in order to identify a contribution of epistasis to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in humans, a reverse-pathway genetic approach. Based on previous observation of increased ASD symptoms in Mendelian disorders of the Ras/MAPK pathway (RASopathies), we showed that common SNPs in RASopathy genes show enrichment for association signal in GWAS (P = 0.02). We then screened genome-wide for interactors with RASopathy gene SNPs and showed strong enrichment in ASD-affected individuals (P < 2.2 x 10-16), with a number of pairwise interactions meeting genome-wide criteria for significance. Finally, we utilized quantitative measures of ASD symptoms in RASopathy-affected individuals to perform modifier mapping via GWAS. One top region overlapped between these independent approaches, and we showed dysregulation of a gene in this region, GPR141, in a RASopathy neural cell line. We thus used orthogonal approaches to provide strong evidence for a contribution of epistasis to ASDs, confirm a role for the Ras/MAPK pathway in idiopathic ASDs, and to identify a convergent candidate gene that may interact with the Ras/MAPK pathway.