Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable and heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental phenotypes diagnosed in more than 1% of children. Common genetic variants contribute substantially to ASD susceptibility, but to date no individual variants have been robustly associated with ASD. With a marked sample-size increase from a unique Danish population resource, we report a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 18,381 individuals with ASD and 27,969 controls that identified five genome-wide-significant loci. Leveraging GWAS results from three phenotypes with significantly overlapping genetic architectures (schizophrenia, major depression, and educational attainment), we identified seven additional loci shared with other traits at equally strict significance levels. Dissecting the polygenic architecture, we found both quantitative and qualitative polygenic heterogeneity across ASD subtypes. These results highlight biological insights, particularly relating to neuronal function and corticogenesis, and establish that GWAS performed at scale will be much more productive in the near term in ASD.
Noncoding repeat expansions cause various neuromuscular diseases, including myotonic dystrophies, fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome, some spinocerebellar ataxias, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and benign adult familial myoclonic epilepsies. Inspired by the striking similarities in the clinical and neuroimaging findings between neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease (NIID) and fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome caused by noncoding CGG repeat expansions in FMR1, we directly searched for repeat expansion mutations and identified noncoding CGG repeat expansions in NBPF19 (NOTCH2NLC) as the causative mutations for NIID. Further prompted by the similarities in the clinical and neuroimaging findings with NIID, we identified similar noncoding CGG repeat expansions in two other diseases: oculopharyngeal myopathy with leukoencephalopathy and oculopharyngodistal myopathy, in LOC642361/NUTM2B-AS1 and LRP12, respectively. These findings expand our knowledge of the clinical spectra of diseases caused by expansions of the same repeat motif, and further highlight how directly searching for expanded repeats can help identify mutations underlying diseases.