The offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism. In light of the evidence implicating copy number variants (CNVs) with schizophrenia and autism, we used a mouse model to explore the hypothesis that the offspring of older males have an increased risk of de novo CNVs. C57BL/6J sires that were 3- and 12-16-months old were mated with 3-month-old dams to create control offspring and offspring of old sires, respectively. Applying genome-wide microarray screening technology, 7 distinct CNVs were identified in a set of 12 offspring and their parents. Competitive quantitative PCR confirmed these CNVs in the original set and also established their frequency in an independent set of 77 offspring and their parents. On the basis of the combined samples, six de novo CNVs were detected in the offspring of older sires, whereas none were detected in the control group. Two of the CNVs were associated with behavioral and/or neuroanatomical phenotypic features. One of the de novo CNVs involved Auts2 (autism susceptibility candidate 2), and other CNVs included genes linked to schizophrenia, autism and brain development. This is the first experimental demonstration that the offspring of older males have an increased risk of de novo CNVs. Our results support the hypothesis that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism by generation of de novo CNVs in the male germline.
- advanced paternal age
- copy number variation