To uncover shared pathogenic mechanisms among the highly heterogeneous autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), we developed a protein interaction network that identified hundreds of new interactions among proteins encoded by ASD-associated genes. We discovered unexpectedly high connectivity between SHANK and TSC1, previously implicated in syndromic autism, suggesting that common molecular pathways underlie autistic phenotypes in distinct syndromes. ASD patients were more likely to harbor copy number variations that encompass network genes than were control subjects. We also identified, in patients with idiopathic ASD, three de novo lesions (deletions in 16q23.3 and 15q22 and one duplication in Xq28) that involve three network genes (NECAB2, PKM2, and FLNA). The protein interaction network thus provides a framework for identifying causes of idiopathic autism and for understanding molecular pathways that underpin both syndromic and idiopathic ASDs.
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