To capture the full spectrum of genetic risk for autism, we performed a two-stage analysis of rare de novo and inherited coding variants in 42,607 autism cases, including 35,130 new cases recruited online by SPARK. We identified 60 genes with exome-wide significance (P < 2.5 × 10−6), including five new risk genes (NAV3, ITSN1, MARK2, SCAF1 and HNRNPUL2). The association of NAV3 with autism risk is primarily driven by rare inherited loss-of-function (LoF) variants, with an estimated relative risk of 4, consistent with moderate effect. Autistic individuals with LoF variants in the four moderate-risk genes (NAV3, ITSN1, SCAF1 and HNRNPUL2; n = 95) have less cognitive impairment than 129 autistic individuals with LoF variants in highly penetrant genes (CHD8, SCN2A, ADNP, FOXP1 and SHANK3) (59% vs 88%, P = 1.9 × 10−6). Power calculations suggest that much larger numbers of autism cases are needed to identify additional moderate-risk genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1319
Number of pages15
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


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