Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism

Joachim Hallmayer, Sue Cleveland, Andrea Torres, Jennifer Phillips, Brianne Cohen, Tiffany Torigoe, Janet Miller, Angie Fedele, Jack Collins, Karen Smith, Linda Lotspeich, Lisa A. Croen, Sally J Ozonoff, Clara Lajonchere, Judith K. Grether, Neil Risch

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Abstract

Context: Autism is considered the most heritable of neurodevelopmental disorders, mainly because of the large difference in concordance rates between monozygotic and dizygotic twins. Objective: To provide rigorous quantitative estimates of genetic heritability of autism and the effects of shared environment. Design, Setting, and Participants: Twin pairs with at least 1 twin with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) born between 1987 and 2004were identified through the California Department of Developmental Services. Main Outcome Measures: Structured diagnostic assessments (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) were completed on 192 twin pairs. Concordance rates were calculated and parametric models were fitted for 2 definitions, 1 narrow (strict autism) and 1 broad (ASD). Results: For strict autism, probandwise concordance for male twins was 0.58 for 40 monozygotic pairs (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.42-0.74) and 0.21 for 31 dizygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.09-0.43); for female twins, the concordance was 0.60 for 7 monozygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.28-0.90) and 0.27 for 10 dizygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.09-0.69). For ASD, the probandwise concordance for male twins was 0.77 for 45 monozygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.65-0.86) and 0.31 for 45 dizygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.16-0.46); for female twins, the concordance was 0.50 for 9 monozygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.16-0.84) and 0.36 for 13 dizygotic pairs (95% CI, 0.11-0.60). A large proportion of the variance in liability can be explained by shared environmental factors (55%; 95% CI, 9%-81% for autism and 58%; 95% CI, 30%-80% for ASD) in addition to moderate genetic heritability (37%; 95% CI, 8%-84% for autism and 38%; 95% CI, 14%-67% for ASD). Conclusion: Susceptibility to ASD has moderate genetic heritability and a substantial shared twin environmental component.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1095-1102
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Volume68
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2011

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Hallmayer, J., Cleveland, S., Torres, A., Phillips, J., Cohen, B., Torigoe, T., Miller, J., Fedele, A., Collins, J., Smith, K., Lotspeich, L., Croen, L. A., Ozonoff, S. J., Lajonchere, C., Grether, J. K., & Risch, N. (2011). Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(11), 1095-1102. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.76