We have investigated four ∼1.6-Mb microduplications and 55 smaller 350-680-kb microduplications at 15q13.2-q13.3 involving the CHRNA7 gene that were detected by clinical microarray analysis. Applying high-resolution array-CGH, we mapped all 118 chromosomal breakpoints of these microduplications. We also sequenced 26 small microduplication breakpoints that were clustering at hotspots of nonallelic homologous recombination (NAHR). All four large microduplications likely arose by NAHR between BP4 and BP5 LCRs, and 54 small microduplications arose by NAHR between two CHRNA7-LCR copies. We identified two classes of ∼1.6-Mb microduplications and five classes of small microduplications differing in duplication size, and show that they duplicate the entire CHRNA7. We propose that size differences among small microduplications result from preexisting heterogeneity of the common BP4-BP5 inversion. Clinical data and family histories of 11 patients with small microduplications involving CHRNA7 suggest that these microduplications might be associated with developmental delay/mental retardation, muscular hypotonia, and a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders. However, we conclude that these microduplications and their associated potential for increased dosage of the CHRNA7-encoded α7 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are of uncertain clinical significance at present. Nevertheless, if they prove to have a pathological effects, their high frequency could make them a common risk factor for many neurobehavioral disorders.
- Autism spectrum disorder