Objectives: We now describe the first study evaluating ASD individuals in four of the remaining MBD family members, MBD5, MBD6, SETDB1 (SET domain, bifurcated 1) and SETDB2, and expand our initial screening of patients in the MECP2 gene.
Methods: All sixty-nine coding exons of these five MBD genes were Sanger sequenced in 576 samples (288 ASD individuals, 86 African American and 202 Caucasian, as well as 288 controls of matching ethnicity).
Results: We identified a total of 144 alterations, the vast majority of which were novel (108 variants, 75%). Thirty-four of these alterations appear to result in a change in amino acid sequence, including thirty-one missense variations, two nonsense mutations, and a frameshift predicted to result from a single base pair insertion. In relation to the relatively small coding sequence of MECP2, this gene appears to carry a disproportionately large number of nonsynonymous alterations (10 variants, 29%). Thirty-two of the alterations identified are specific to ASD patients and absent in controls. It also appears that many of the variants are specific to a particular ethnicity, with 34 variants identified only in African Americans and 55 variants solely identified in Caucasians. We are currently sequencing additional family members in order to distinguish whether the variants segregate with disease.
Conclusions: From our studies, we demonstrate that the MBD gene family may play a larger role in rare and private genetic causes of autism than was initially believed.