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Identification of de novo mutations in the Chinese ASD cohort via whole-exome sequencing unveils brain regions implicated in autism

By Bo Yuan, Mengdi Wang, Xinran Wu, Peipei Cheng, Ran Zhang, Shunying Yu, Jie Zhang, Yasong Du, Xiaoqun Wang, Zilong Qiu

Posted 22 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.14.21260545

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interactions and repetitive behaviors. Although hundreds of ASD risk genes, implicated in synaptic formation and transcriptional regulation, have been identified through human genetic studies, the East Asian ASD cohorts is still under-represented in the genome-wide genetic studies. Here we performed whole-exome sequencing on 369 ASD trios including probands and unaffected parents of Chinese origin. Using a joint-calling analytical pipeline based on GATK toolkits, we identified numerous de novo mutations including 55 high-impact variants and 165 moderate-impact variants, as well as de novo copy number variations containing known ASD-related genes. Importantly, combining with single-cell sequencing data from the developing human brain, we found that expression of genes with de novo mutations were specifically enriched in pre-, post-central gyrus (PRC, PC) and banks of superior temporal (BST) regions in the human brain. By further analyzing the brain imaging data with ASD and health controls, we found that the gray volume of the right BST in ASD patients significantly decreased comparing to health controls, suggesting the potential structural deficits associated with ASD. Finally, we found that there was decrease in the seed-based functional connectivity (FC) between BST/PC/PRC and sensory areas, insula, as well as frontal lobes in ASD patients. This work indicated that the combinatorial analysis with genome-wide screening, single-cell sequencing and brain imaging data would reveal brain regions contributing to etiology of ASD.

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