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Region Hovedstadens Psykiatri - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Pleiotropy between language impairment and broader behavioral disorders-an investigation of both common and rare genetic variants

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  1. Co-occurring hydrocephalus in autism spectrum disorder: a Danish population-based cohort study

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BACKGROUND: Language plays a major role in human behavior. For this reason, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in which linguistic ability is impaired could have a big impact on the individual's social interaction and general wellbeing. Such disorders tend to have a strong genetic component, but most past studies examined mostly the linguistic overlaps across these disorders; investigations into their genetic overlaps are limited. The aim of this study was to assess the potential genetic overlap between language impairment and broader behavioral disorders employing methods capturing both common and rare genetic variants.

METHODS: We employ polygenic risk scores (PRS) trained on specific language impairment (SLI) to evaluate genetic overlap across several disorders in a large case-cohort sample comprising ~13,000 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) cases, including cases of childhood autism and Asperger's syndrome, ~15,000 attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cases, ~3000 schizophrenia cases, and ~21,000 population controls. We also examine rare variants in SLI/language-related genes in a subset of the sample that was exome-sequenced using the SKAT-O method.

RESULTS: We find that there is little evidence for genetic overlap between SLI and ADHD, schizophrenia, and ASD, the latter being in line with results of linguistic analyses in past studies. However, we observe a small, significant genetic overlap between SLI and childhood autism specifically, which we do not observe for SLI and Asperger's syndrome. Moreover, we observe that childhood autism cases have significantly higher SLI-trained PRS compared to Asperger's syndrome cases; these results correspond well to the linguistic profiles of both disorders. Our rare variant analyses provide suggestive evidence of association for specific genes with ASD, childhood autism, and schizophrenia.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides, for the first time, to our knowledge, genetic evidence for ASD subtypes based on risk variants for language impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).

ID: 69273571