Although there is considerable evidence for a strong genetic component to idiopathic autism, several genomewide screens for susceptibility genes have been performed with limited concordance of linked loci, reflecting either numerous genes of weak effect and/or sample heterogeneity. Because decreasing sample heterogeneity would increase the power to identify genes, the effect on evidence for linkage of restricting a sample of autism-affected relative pairs to those with delayed onset (at age >36 mo) of phrase speech (PSD, for phrase speech delay) was studied. In the second stage of a two-stage genome screen for susceptibility loci involving 95 families with two or more individuals with autism or related disorders, a maximal multipoint heterogeneity LOD score (HLOD) of 1.96 and a maximal multipoint nonparametric linkage (NPL) score of 2.39 was seen on chromosome 2q. Restricting the analysis to the subset of families (n = 49) with two or more individuals having a narrow diagnosis of autism and PSD generated a maximal multipoint HLOD score of 2.99 and an NPL score of 3.32. The increased scores in the restricted sample, together with evidence for heterogeneity in the entire sample, indicate that the restricted sample comprises a population that is more genetically homogeneous, which could therefore increase the likelihood of positional cloning of susceptibility loci.
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