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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk is influenced by both common polygenic and de novo variation. The purpose of this analysis was to clarify the influence of common polygenic risk for ASDs and to identify subgroups of cases, including those with strong acting de novo variants, in which different types of polygenic risk are relevant. To do so, we extend the transmission disequilibrium approach to encompass polygenic risk scores, and introduce with polygenic transmission disequilibrium test. Using data from more than 6,400 children with ASDs and 15,000 of their family members, we show that polygenic risk for ASDs, schizophrenia, and educational attainment is over transmitted to children with ASDs in two independent samples, but not to their unaffected siblings. These findings hold independent of proband IQ. We find that common polygenic variation contributes additively to ASD risk in cases that carry a very strong acting de novo variant. Lastly, we find evidence that elements of polygenic risk are independent and differ in their relationship with proband phenotype. These results confirm that ASDs' genetic influences are highly additive and suggest that they create risk through at least partially distinct etiologic pathways.

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