Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 September 2020
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors, and interests. However, individuals with ASD vary significantly in their challenges and abilities in these and other developmental domains. Gene discovery in ASD has accelerated in the past decade, and genetic subtyping has yielded preliminary evidence of utility in parsing phenotypic heterogeneity through genomic subtypes. Recent advances in transcriptomics have provided additional dimensions with which to refine genetic subtyping efforts. In the current study, we investigate phenotypic differences among transcriptional subtypes defined by neurobiological spatiotemporal co-expression patterns. Of the four transcriptional subtypes examined, participants with mutations to genes typically expressed highly in all brain regions prenatally, and those with differential postnatal cerebellar expression relative to other brain regions, showed lower cognitive and adaptive skills, higher severity of social communication deficits, and later acquisition of speech and motor milestones, compared to those with mutations to genes highly expressed during the postnatal period across brain regions. These findings suggest higher-order characterization of genetic subtypes based on neurobiological expression patterns may be a promising approach to parsing phenotypic heterogeneity among those with ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
Both authors contributed equally to this work.