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      Association of Per1 and Npas2 with autistic disorder: support for the clock genes/social timing hypothesis.

      Molecular Psychiatry

      physiology, Adult, Time Perception, Social Behavior, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Period Circadian Proteins, Pedigree, genetics, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Male, Humans, Haplotypes, Female, Epistasis, Genetic, Cell Cycle Proteins, Biological Clocks, Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Autistic Disorder

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          Clock gene anomalies have been suggested as causative factors in autism. We screened eleven clock/clock-related genes in a predominantly high-functioning Autism Genetic Resource Exchange sample of strictly diagnosed autistic disorder progeny and their parents (110 trios) for association of clock gene variants with autistic disorder. We found significant association (P<0.05) for two single-nucleotide polymorphisms in per1 and two in npas2. Analysis of all possible combinations of two-marker haplotypes for each gene showed that in npas2 40 out of the 136 possible two-marker combinations were significant at the P<0.05 level, with the best result between markers rs1811399 and rs2117714, P=0.001. Haplotype analysis within per1 gave a single significant result: a global P=0.027 for the markers rs2253820-rs885747. No two-marker haplotype was significant in any of the other genes, despite the large number of tests performed. Our findings support the hypothesis that these epistatic clock genes may be involved in the etiology of autistic disorder. Problems in sleep, memory and timing are all characteristics of autistic disorder and aspects of sleep, memory and timing are each clock-gene-regulated in other species. We identify how our findings may be relevant to theories of autism that focus on the amygdala, cerebellum, memory and temporal deficits. We outline possible implications of these findings for developmental models of autism involving temporal synchrony/social timing.

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