While association studies on schizophrenia show conflicting results regarding the importance of the regulator of the G-protein signaling 4 (RGS4) gene, recent work suggests that RGS4 may impact on the structural and functional integrity of the prefrontal cortex. We aimed to study associations of common RGS4 variants with prefrontal dependent cognitive performance and schizotypy endophenotypes at the population level.
Four RGS4 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP1 [rs10917670], SNP4 [rs951436], SNP7 [rs951439], and SNP18 [rs2661319]) and their haplotypes were selected. Their associations with self-rated schizotypy (SPQ), vigilance, verbal, spatial working memory and antisaccade eye performance were tested with regressions in a representative population of 2,243 young male military conscripts.
SNP4 was associated with negative schizotypy (higher SPQ negative factor for common T allele, p = 0.009; p = 0.031 for differences across genotypes) and a similar trend was seen also for common A allele of SNP18 (p = 0.039 for allele-load model; but p = 0.12 for genotype differences). Haplotype analyses showed a similar pattern with a dose-response for the most common haplotype (GGGG) on the negative schizotypy score with or without adjustment for age, IQ and their interaction (p = 0.011 and p = 0.024, respectively). There was no clear evidence for any association of the RGS4 variants with cognitive endophenotypes, except for an isolated effect of SNP18 on antisaccade error rate (p = 0.028 for allele-load model).
Common RGS4 variants were associated with negative schizotypal personality traits amongst a large cohort of young healthy individuals. In accordance with recent findings, this may suggest that RGS4 variants impact on the functional integrity of the prefrontal cortex, thus increasing susceptibility for psychotic spectrum disorders.