Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is extremely heterogeneous clinically and genetically. There is a pressing need for a better understanding of the heterogeneity of ASD based on scientifically rigorous approaches centered on systematic evaluation of the clinical and research utility of both phenotype and genotype markers. This paper presents a holistic PheWAS-inspired method to identify meaningful associations between ASD phenotypes and genotypes. We generate two types of phenotype-phenotype (p-p) graphs: a direct graph that utilizes only phenotype data, and an indirect graph that incorporates genotype as well as phenotype data. We introduce a novel methodology for fusing the direct and indirect p-p networks in which the genotype data is incorporated into the phenotype data in varying degrees. The hypothesis is that the heterogeneity of ASD can be distinguished by clustering the p-p graph. The obtained graphs are clustered using network-oriented clustering techniques, and results are evaluated. The most promising clusterings are subsequently analyzed for biological and domain-based relevance. Clusters obtained delineated different aspects of ASD, including differentiating ASD-specific symptoms, cognitive, adaptive, language and communication functions, and behavioral problems. Some of the important genes associated with the clusters have previous known associations to ASD. We found that clusters based on integrated genetic and phenotype data were more effective at identifying relevant genes than clusters constructed from phenotype information alone. These genes included five with suggestive evidence of ASD association and one known to be a strong candidate.

Publication Status

Open Access


Department of Computer Science, Saarland University, Grant None

Keywords and Phrases

autism spectrum disorders; genotypes; graph-based clustering; kNN graphs; PheWAS

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

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© 2023 The Authors, All rights reserved.

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Publication Date

12 Oct 2022