Autism and mental retardation (MR) are often associated, suggesting that these conditions are etiologically related. Recently, array-based comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) has identified submicroscopic deletions and duplications as a common cause of MR, prompting us to search for such genomic imbalances in autism. Here we describe a 1.5-Mb duplication on chromosome 16p13.1 that was found by high-resolution array CGH in four severe autistic male patients from three unrelated families. The same duplication was identified in several variably affected and unaffected relatives. A deletion of the same interval was detected in three unrelated patients with MR and other clinical abnormalities. In one patient we revealed a further rearrangement of the 16p13 imbalance that was not present in his unaffected mother. Duplications and deletions of this 1.5-Mb interval have not been described as copy number variants in the Database of Genomic Variants and have not been identified in >600 individuals from other cohorts examined by high-resolution array CGH in our laboratory. Thus we conclude that these aberrations represent recurrent genomic imbalances which predispose to autism and/or MR. Hum Mutat 28(7), 674–682, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.