J Med Genet 2019 12 14;56(12):801-808. Epub 2019 Aug 14.
Genetics Unit, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Hospital del Mar Research Institute (IMIM), and Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Raras (CIBERER), Universitat Pompeu Fabra Departament de Ciences Experimentals i de la Salut, Barcelona, Spain.
Background: The hallmark of the neurobehavioural phenotype of Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) is increased sociability and relatively preserved language skills, often described as opposite to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the prevalence of ASD in WBS is 6-10 times higher than in the general population. We have investigated the genetic factors that could contribute to the ASD phenotype in individuals with WBS.
Methods: We studied four males and four females with WBS and a confirmed diagnosis of ASD by the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised. We performed a detailed molecular characterisation of the deletion and searched for genomic variants using exome sequencing.
Results: A de novo deletion of 1.55 Mb (6 cases) or 1.83 Mb (2 cases) at 7q11.23 was detected, being in 7/8 patients of paternal origin. No common breakpoint, deletion mechanism or size was found. Two cases were hemizygous for the rare T allele at rs12539160 in , previously associated with ASD. Inherited rare variants in ASD-related or functionally constrained genes and a de novo nonsense mutation in the gene were identified in six cases, with higher burden in females compared with males (p=0.016).
Conclusions: The increased susceptibility to ASD in patients with WBS might be due to additive effects of the common WBS deletion, inherited and de novo rare sequence variants in ASD-related genes elsewhere in the genome, with higher burden of deleterious mutations required for females, and possible hypomorphic variants in the hemizygous allele or -acting mechanisms on imprinting.