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Reverse Pathway Genetic Approach Identifies Epistasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

  • Author(s): Mitra, Ileena
  • Lavillaureix, Alinoë
  • Yeh, Erika
  • Traglia, Michela
  • Tsang, Kathryn
  • Bearden, Carrie E
  • Rauen, Katherine A
  • Weiss, Lauren A
  • et al.
Abstract

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.

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