Damaging de novo mutations diminish motor skills in children on the autism spectrum
Autism Spectrum Disorder
In individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), de novo mutations have previously been shown to be significantly correlated with lower IQ but not with the core characteristics of ASD: deficits in social communication and interaction and restricted interests and repetitive patterns of behavior. We extend these findings by demonstrating in the Simons Simplex Collection that damaging de novo mutations in ASD individuals are also significantly and convincingly correlated with measures of impaired motor skills. This correlation is not explained by a correlation between IQ and motor skills. We find that IQ and motor skills are distinctly associated with damaging mutations and, in particular, that motor skills are a more sensitive indicator of mutational severity than is IQ, as judged by mutational type and target gene. We use this finding to propose a combined classification of phenotypic severity: mild (little impairment of either), moderate (impairment mainly to motor skills), and severe (impairment of both IQ and motor skills).