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Meta-analysis of gene expression in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders Ch'ng, Carolyn Lin Wei

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are clinically heterogeneous and biologically complex. State of the art genetics research has unveiled a large number of variants linked to ASD. But in general it remains unclear, what biological factors lead to changes in the brains of autistic individuals. We build on the premise that these heterogeneous genetic or genomic aberrations will converge towards a common impact downstream, which might be reflected in the transcriptomes of individuals with ASD. Similarly, a considerable number of transcriptome analyses have been performed in attempts to address this question, but their findings lack a clear consensus. As a result, each of these individual studies has not led to any significant advance in understanding the autistic phenotype as a whole. The goal of this research is to comprehensively re-evaluate these expression profiling studies by conducting a systematic meta-analysis. Here, we report a meta-analysis of over 1000 microarrays across twelve independent studies on expression changes in ASD compared to unaffected individuals, in blood and brain. We identified a number of genes that are consistently differentially expressed across studies of the brain, suggestive of effects on mitochondrial function. In blood, consistent changes were more difficult to identify, despite individual studies tending to exhibit larger effects than the brain studies. Our results are the strongest evidence to date of a common transcriptome signature in the brains of individuals with ASD.

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