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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • 5-HTTLPR;
  • maternal effects;
  • parent-of-origin effects;
  • association

Abstract

A promoter-linked insertion/deletion polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) has been implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in numerous family based association studies. However, the results of these investigations have been inconsistent in that both the long and short alleles have been shown to be over-transmitted to affected offspring. In order to further elucidate the relationship between the 5-HTTLPR variant and autism risk, we undertook a thorough study of parent-of-origin effects, maternal genotype effects, and offspring genotype effects in a sample of affected offspring from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). Both the overall autism phenotype and measures of autism behaviors from the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised [Lord et al. (1994); J Autism Dev Disord 24(5): 659–685] were considered. We found evidence of over-transmission (risk allele short, P = 0.012), maternal effects (risk allele long, P = 0.035), and parent-of-origin effects (risk allele short from mother, P = 0.018) of the 5-HTTLPR variant in the AGRE sample. Population- and gender-specific effects were also explored as associations may be heterogeneous across populations and sexes. Parent-of-origin effects of the variant were associated with maternally inherited copies of the short allele that resulted in more impaired overall level of language (P = 0.04). Our study was conducted to further investigate the 5-HTTLPR risk variants by identifying allelic associations that may be population-specific, phenotype-specific, or conferred by maternal or parent-of-origin effects. In light of conflicting observations from previous studies, these are just a few of the possible explanations that deserve attention. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.