Patients with schizophrenia show widespread cortical thickness reductions throughout the brain. Likewise, reduced expression of the γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD1) and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs3749034 in the corresponding gene have been associated with schizophrenia. We tested whether this SNP is associated with reduced cortical thickness, an intermediate phenotype for schizophrenia. Because of the well known interactions between the GABAergic and dopaminergic systems, we examined whether associations between GAD1 rs3749034 and cortical thickness are modulated by the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met genotype. Structural MRI and genotype data was obtained from 94 healthy subjects enrolled in the Mind Clinical Imaging Consortium study to examine the relations between GAD1 genotype and cortical thickness. Our data show a robust reduction of cortical thickness in the left parahippocampal gyrus (PHG) in G allele homozygotes of GAD1 rs3749034. When we stratified our analyses according to the COMT Val158Met genotype, cortical thickness reductions of G allele homozygotes were only found in the presence of the Val allele. Genetic risk variants of schizophrenia in the GABAergic system might interact with the dopaminergic system and impact brain structure and functioning. Our findings point to the importance of the GABAergic system in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
Cortical thickness; Single nucleotide polymorphism; GAD1; COMT Val/Met polymorphism; Schizophrenia
The single-nucleotide polymorphism rs1344706 in the gene ZNF804a has been associated with schizophrenia and with quantitative phenotypic features, including brain structure volume and the core symptoms of schizophrenia.
To evaluate associations of rs1344706 with brain structure and the core symptoms of schizophrenia.
Case-control analysis of covariance.
University-based research hospital.
Volunteer sample of 335 individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (306 with core schizophrenia) and 198 healthy volunteers.
Main Outcome Measures
Cerebral cortical gray matter and white matter (WM) volumes (total and frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes), lateral ventricular cerebrospinal fluid volume, and symptom severity from the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms and the Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms divided into 3 domains: psychotic, negative, and disorganized.
The rs1344706 genotype produced significant main effects on total, frontal, and parietal lobe WM volumes (F =3.98, P=.02; F =4.95, P=.007; and F =3.08, P =.05, respectively). In the schizophrenia group, rs1344706 produced significant simple effects on total (F =3.93, P=.02) and frontal WM volumes (F =7.16, P < .001) and on psychotic symptom severity (F =6.07, P=.003); the pattern of effects was concordant with risk allele carriers having larger volumes and more severe symptoms of disease than nonrisk homozygotes. In the healthy volunteer group, risk allele homozygotes had increased total WM volume compared with nonrisk allele carriers (F =4.61, P=.03), replicating a previously reported association.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the risk allele of rs1347706 is associated with a distinctive set of phenotypic features in healthy volunteers and individuals with schizophrenia. Our study supports this assertion by finding that specific genotypes of the polymorphism are associated with brain structure volumes in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy volunteers and with symptom severity in schizophrenia.
General cognitive ability is usually lower in individuals with schizophrenia, partly due to genetic influences. However, the specific genetic features related to general cognitive ability are poorly understood. Individual variation in a specific type of mutation, uncommon genetic deletions, has recently been linked with both general cognitive ability and risk for schizophrenia.
We derived measures of the aggregate number of “uncommon” deletions (i.e., those occurring in 3% or less of our combined samples) and the total number of base pairs affected by these deletions in individuals with schizophrenia (N = 79) and healthy controls (N = 110), and related each measure to the first principal component of a large battery of cognitive tests, a common technique for characterizing general cognitive ability. These two measures of mutation load were also evaluated for relationships with total brain gray matter, white matter, and lateral ventricle volume.
The groups did not differ on genetic variables. Multivariate general linear models revealed a group (controls versus patients) by uncommon deletion number interaction, such that the latter variable was associated with lower general cognitive ability and larger ventricles in patients but not controls.
These data suggest that aggregate uncommon deletion burden moderates central features of the schizophrenia phenotype.
copy number variations; schizophrenia; cognition; ventricles; mutations; intelligence
Autism and the fragile X syndrome (FXS) are related to each other genetically and symptomatically. A cardinal biological feature of both disorders is abnormalities of cerebral cortical brain volumes. We have previously shown that the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) promoter polymorphism is associated with cerebral cortical volumes in children with autism, and we now sought to determine whether the association was also present in children with FXS.
Participants included 47 2-year-old Caucasian boys with FXS, some of whom also had autism, as well as 34 2-year-old boys with idiopathic autism analyzed in a previous study. The MAOA promoter polymorphism was genotyped and tested for relationships with gray and white matter volumes of the cerebral cortical lobes and cerebro-spinal fluid volume of the lateral ventricles.
MAOA genotype effects in FXS children were the same as those previously observed in idiopathic autism: the low activity MAOA promoter polymorphism allele was associated with increased gray and white matter volumes in all cerebral lobes. The effect was most pronounced in frontal lobe gray matter and all three white matter regions: frontal gray, F = 4.39, P = 0.04; frontal white, F = 5.71, P = 0.02; temporal white, F = 4.73, P = 0.04; parieto-occipital white, F = 5.00, P = 0.03. Analysis of combined FXS and idiopathic autism samples produced P values for these regions <0.01 and effect sizes of approximately 0.10.
The MAOA promoter polymorphism is similarly associated with brain structure volumes in both idiopathic autism and FXS. These data illuminate a number of important aspects of autism and FXS heritability: a genetic effect on a core biological trait of illness, the specificity/generalizability of the genetic effect, and the utility of examining individual genetic effects on the background of a single gene disorder such as FXS.
Autism; Fragile X syndrome; Brain structure; Monoamine oxidase A; Polymorphism
Recently, deriving candidate endophenotypes from brain imaging data has become a valuable approach to study genetic influences on schizophrenia (SZ), whose pathophysiology remains unclear. In this work we utilized a multivariate approach, parallel independent component analysis, to identify genomic risk components associated with brain function abnormalities in SZ. 5157 candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were derived from genome-wide array based on their possible connections with SZ and further investigated for their associations with brain activations captured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a sensorimotor task. Using data from 92 SZ patients and 116 healthy controls, we detected a significant correlation (r= 0.29; p= 2.41×10−5) between one fMRI component and one SNP component, both of which significantly differentiated patients from controls. The fMRI component mainly consisted of precentral and postcentral gyri, the major activated regions in the motor task. On average, higher activation in these regions was observed in participants with higher loadings of the linked SNP component, predominantly contributed to by 253 SNPs. 138 identified SNPs were from known coding regions of 100 unique genes. 31 identified SNPs did not differ between groups, but moderately correlated with some other group-discriminating SNPs, indicating interactions among alleles contributing towards elevated SZ susceptibility. The genes associated with the identified SNPs participated in four neurotransmitter pathways: GABA receptor signaling, dopamine receptor signaling, neuregulin signaling and glutamate receptor signaling. In summary, our work provides further evidence for the complexity of genomic risk to the functional brain abnormality in SZ and suggests a pathological role of interactions between SNPs, genes and multiple neurotransmitter pathways.
schizophrenia; fMRI; SNP; parallel-ICA; multivariate
Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorder characterized by a variety of structural brain abnormalities that appear to progress across the course of illness. Schizophrenia also is highly heritable, and one gene that has emerged as a possible susceptibility factor is G72. G72 influences brain development and activity by an as-yet unclear mechanism, and multiple studies have reported associations between G72 and schizophrenia. We were interested in linking these domains of investigation by determining whether G72 also influences the rate of longitudinal structural brain changes in individuals with schizophrenia. As part of the Iowa Longitudinal Study of Recent Onset Psychoses, we genotyped four G72 polymorphisms previously associated with schizophrenia in 110 subjects with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder from whom we had obtained two brain MRI scans an average of three years apart. The four polymorphisms captured three haplotypes, one of which was strongly associated with an increased rate of frontal lobe volume decrement. This same haplotype was also associated with more severe psychotic symptoms at the time of the second scan. These data thus suggest that variation in G72 modulates the progressive brain changes that characterize schizophrenia.
DAOA; MRI; schizophrenia; frontal lobe; psychosis
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a complex genetic disease, with many loci demonstrating appreciable attributable disease risk. Despite significant progress toward understanding the genetic and environmental etiology of AMD, identification of additional risk factors is necessary to fully appreciate and treat AMD pathology. In this study, we investigated copy number variants (CNVs) as potential AMD risk variants in a cohort of 400 AMD patients and 500 AMD-free controls ascertained at the University of Iowa. We used three publicly available copy number programs to analyze signal intensity data from Affymetrix® GeneChip SNP Microarrays. CNVs were ranked based on prevalence in the disease cohort and absence from the control group; high interest CNVs were subsequently confirmed by qPCR. While we did not observe a single-locus “risk CNV” that could account for a major fraction of AMD, we identified several rare and overlapping CNVs containing or flanking compelling candidate genes such as NPHP1 and EFEMP1. These and other candidate genes highlighted by this study deserve further scrutiny as sources of genetic risk for AMD.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a strong genetic component to susceptibility. Here, we report the molecular characterization of an apparent de novo 281 kb duplication of Chromosome 2p25.3 in two male half-siblings with autism.
The 2p25.3 duplication was first identified through a low-density microarray, validated with FISH, and duplication breakpoints were delineated using an Affymetrix 6.0 SNP microarray.
FISH results validated the novel copy number variant and revealed the mother to be mosaic, with ~33% of her lymphoblast cells carrying the duplication. Therefore, the duplication was transmitted through the mechanism of germline mosaicism. Additionally, duplication breakpoints were refined and show that PXDN is fully duplicated, while seven exons of the terminal portion of the 25 exon gene MYT1L are within the duplicated region.
MYT1L, a gene predominately expressed in the brain, has recently been linked to other neuropsychiatric illness such as schizophrenia and depression. Results from this study indicate that the 2p25.3 duplication disrupting PXDN and MYT1L is a potential autism-causing variant in the pedigree reported here and should receive further consideration as a candidate gene for autism.
MYT1L; autistic disorder; DNA copy number variations; mosaicism; genetics
Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) is known to play a major role during brain development and is a candidate gene for schizophrenia. Cortical thickness is highly heritable and several MRI studies have shown widespread reductions of cortical thickness in patients with schizophrenia. Here, we investigated the effects of variation in DISC1 on cortical thickness. In a subsequent analysis we tested whether the identified DISC1 risk variant is also associated with neural activity during working memory functioning.
We acquired structural MRI (sMRI), functional MRI (fMRI) and genotype data from 96 healthy volunteers. Separate cortical statistical maps for five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) of DISC1 were generated to detect differences of cortical thickness in genotype groups across the entire cortical surface. Working-memory related load-dependent activation was measured during the Sternberg Item Recognition Paradigm and analyzed using a region-of-interest approach.
Phe allele carriers of the DISC1 SNP Leu607Phe had significantly reduced cortical thickness in the left supramarginal gyrus compared to Leu/Leu homozygotes. Neural activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during working memory task was increased in Phe allele carriers, whereas working memory performance did not differ between genotype groups.
This study provides convergent evidence for the effect of DISC1 risk variants on two independent brain-based intermediate phenotypes of schizophrenia. The same risk variant was associated with cortical thickness reductions and signs of neural inefficiency during a working memory task. Our findings provide further evidence for a neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia.
cortical thickness; single nucleotide polymorphism; DISC1; functional MRI; working memory; schizophrenia
While it is apparent that rare variation can play an important role in the genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the contribution of common variation to the risk of developing ASD is less clear. To produce a more comprehensive picture, we report Stage 2 of the Autism Genome Project genome-wide association study, adding 1301 ASD families and bringing the total to 2705 families analysed (Stages 1 and 2). In addition to evaluating the association of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), we also sought evidence that common variants, en masse, might affect the risk. Despite genotyping over a million SNPs covering the genome, no single SNP shows significant association with ASD or selected phenotypes at a genome-wide level. The SNP that achieves the smallest P-value from secondary analyses is rs1718101. It falls in CNTNAP2, a gene previously implicated in susceptibility for ASD. This SNP also shows modest association with age of word/phrase acquisition in ASD subjects, of interest because features of language development are also associated with other variation in CNTNAP2. In contrast, allele scores derived from the transmission of common alleles to Stage 1 cases significantly predict case status in the independent Stage 2 sample. Despite being significant, the variance explained by these allele scores was small (Vm< 1%). Based on results from individual SNPs and their en masse effect on risk, as inferred from the allele score results, it is reasonable to conclude that common variants affect the risk for ASD but their individual effects are modest.
We report identification of a novel genetic locus (GLC1P) for normal tension glaucoma (NTG) on chromosome 12q14 using linkage studies of an African-American pedigree (maximum non-parametric linkage score = 19.7, max LOD score = 2.7). Subsequent comparative genomic hybridization and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) experiments identified a 780 kbp duplication within the GLC1P locus that is co-inherited with NTG in the pedigree. Real-time PCR studies showed that the genes within this duplication [TBK1 (TANK-binding kinase 1), XPOT, RASSF3 and GNS] are all expressed in the human retina. Cohorts of 478 glaucoma patients (including 152 NTG patients), 100 normal control subjects and 400 age-related macular degeneration patients were subsequently tested for copy number variation in GLC1P. Overlapping duplications were detected in 2 (1.3%) of the 152 NTG subjects, one of which had a strong family history of glaucoma. These duplications defined a 300 kbp critical region of GLC1P that spans two genes (TBK1 and XPOT). Microarray expression experiments and northern blot analysis using RNA obtained from human skin fibroblast cells showed that duplication of chromosome 12q14 results in increased TBK1 and GNS transcription. Finally, immunohistochemistry studies showed that TBK1 is expressed in the ganglion cells, nerve fiber layer and microvasculature of the human retina. Together, these data link the duplication of genes on chromosome 12q14 with familial NTG and suggest that an extra copy of the encompassed TBK1 gene is likely responsible for these cases of glaucoma. However, animal studies will be necessary to rule out a role for the other duplicated or neighboring genes.
Marijuana exposure during the critical period of adolescent brain maturation may disrupt neuro-modulatory influences of endocannabinoids and increase schizophrenia susceptibility. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1/CNR1) is the principal brain receptor mediating marijuana effects. No study to-date has systematically investigated the impact of CNR1 on quantitative phenotypic features in schizophrenia and inter-relationships with marijuana misuse. We genotyped 235 schizophrenia patients using 12 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (tSNPs) that account for most of CB1 coding region genetic variability. Patients underwent a high-resolution anatomic brain magnetic resonance scan and cognitive assessment. Almost a quarter of the sample met DSM marijuana abuse (14%) or dependence (8%) criteria. Effects of CNR1 tSNPs and marijuana abuse/dependence on brain volumes and neurocognition were assessed using ANCOVA, including co-morbid alcohol/non-marijuana illicit drug misuse as covariates. Significant main effects of CNR1 tSNPs (rs7766029, rs12720071, and rs9450898) were found in white matter (WM) volumes. Patients with marijuana abuse/dependence had smaller fronto-temporal WM volumes than patients without heavy marijuana use. More interestingly, there were significant rs12720071 genotype-by-marijuana use interaction effects on WM volumes and neurocognitive impairment; suggestive of gene-environment interactions for conferring phenotypic abnormalities in schizophrenia. In this comprehensive evaluation of genetic variants distributed across the CB1 locus, CNR1 genetic polymorphisms were associated with WM brain volume variation among schizophrenia patients. Our findings suggest that heavy cannabis use in the context of specific CNR1 genotypes may contribute to greater WM volume deficits and cognitive impairment, which could in turn increase schizophrenia risk.
CNR1; magnetic resonance imaging; cognition; candidate gene association study; schizophrenia; substance abuse dependence
This study has identified rare and recurrent deletions and duplications in POAG patients in the first large-scale, whole-genome study of structural variation performed in a sample of POAG patients and POAG-free subjects.
This study sought to investigate the role of rare copy number variation (CNV) in age-related disorders of blindness, with a focus on primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). Data are reported from a whole-genome copy number screen in a large cohort of 400 individuals with POAG and 500 age-matched glaucoma-free subjects.
DNA samples from patients and controls were tested for CNVs using a combination of two microarray platforms. The signal intensity data generated from these arrays were then analyzed with multiple CNV detection programs including CNAG version 2.0, PennCNV, and dChip.
A total of 11 validated CNVs were identified as recurrent in the POAG set and absent in the age-matched control set. This set included CNVs on 5q23.1 (DMXL1, DTWD2), 20p12 (PAK7), 12q14 (C12orf56, XPOT, TBK1, and RASSF3), 12p13.33 (TULP3), and 10q34.21 (PAX2), among others. The CNVs presented here are exceedingly rare and are not found in the Database of Genomic Variants. Moreover, expression data from ocular tissue support the role of these CNV-implicated genes in vision-related processes. In addition, CNV locations of DMXL1 and PAK7 overlap previously identified linkage signals for glaucoma on 5p23.1 and 20p12, respectively.
The data are consistent with the hypothesis that rare CNV plays a role in the development of POAG.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable disorder of complex and heterogeneous aetiology. It is primarily characterized by altered cognitive ability including impaired language and communication skills and fundamental deficits in social reciprocity. Despite some notable successes in neuropsychiatric genetics, overall, the high heritability of ASD (~90%) remains poorly explained by common genetic risk variants. However, recent studies suggest that rare genomic variation, in particular copy number variation, may account for a significant proportion of the genetic basis of ASD. We present a large scale analysis to identify candidate genes which may contain low-frequency recessive variation contributing to ASD while taking into account the potential contribution of population differences to the genetic heterogeneity of ASD. Our strategy, homozygous haplotype (HH) mapping, aims to detect homozygous segments of identical haplotype structure that are shared at a higher frequency amongst ASD patients compared to parental controls. The analysis was performed on 1,402 Autism Genome Project trios genotyped for 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We identified 25 known and 1,218 novel ASD candidate genes in the discovery analysis including CADM2, ABHD14A, CHRFAM7A, GRIK2, GRM3, EPHA3, FGF10, KCND2, PDZK1, IMMP2L and FOXP2. Furthermore, 10 of the previously reported ASD genes and 300 of the novel candidates identified in the discovery analysis were replicated in an independent sample of 1,182 trios. Our results demonstrate that regions of HH are significantly enriched for previously reported ASD candidate genes and the observed association is independent of gene size (odds ratio 2.10). Our findings highlight the applicability of HH mapping in complex disorders such as ASD and offer an alternative approach to the analysis of genome-wide association data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-011-1094-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Relatively little is known about genetic determinants of cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. Recent studies suggest that a BDNF prodomain SNP, resulting in valine to methionine substitution, is associated with impaired declarative memory in healthy volunteers and in schizophrenia patients. These studies indicate that BDNFMet variant may mediate hippocampal cognitive functions by modulating intracellular trafficking and activity-dependent BDNF release. How this functional SNP affects other neurocognitive measures have not been examined. Its role in determining cognitive deficits in schizophrenia has not been systematically studied either.
To characterize the neurocognitive and brain morphometric phenotypic correlates of BDNF val66met polymorphism, and test the specificity of BDNFMet variant on cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.
Design, Setting and Participants
A comprehensive battery of standardized neuropsychological tests was administered to 144 healthy volunteers and 293 schizophrenia-spectrum disorder patients at a tertiary-care university hospital. Approximately two-thirds of the sample also underwent high-resolution MRI brain scans.
Main Outcome Measures
Genotype effects (Met-allele-carriers versus Val homozygotes) on five cognitive domain z-scores and MRI gray matter (GM) brain volume measures (Talairach-atlas based cerebral lobes and optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM)) were examined using general linear models.
On verbal memory, there was a significant genotype effect but no genotype-by-diagnosis effects. In both patients and healthy volunteers, Met-allele-carriers had poorer verbal memory performance than their Val/Val counterparts. On visuospatial abilities, there were significant genotype and genotype-by-diagnosis effects. Met allele-associated visuospatial impairment was specific to patients, but not healthy volunteers. There were significant genotype effects on GM volumes within brain regions known to subserve these two cognitive domains, with Met-allele-carriers having smaller temporal and occipital lobar GM. Optimized VBM further suggests that parietal heteromodal cortical GM deficits may underlie visuospatial impairment in Met-allele-carrier patients.
We replicated the association between BDNFMet variant and poor medial temporal lobe-related memory performance. The consonance of our cognitive and brain morphology findings further suggests that BDNFMet variant may have a specific role in conferring visuospatial dysfunction in schizophrenia.
Factors underlying progressive brain volume changes in schizophrenia remain poorly understood. We investigate whether a gene polymorphism influencing neuroplasticity may contribute to longitudinal brain volume alterations.
High-resolution magnetic resonance images of the whole brain were obtained on 119 patients with recent-onset schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Changes in brain volumes averaging 3 years were compared between BDNF val66met genotype groupings. Exploratory analyses were further conducted to examine relationships between antipsychotic treatment and brain volume changes, as well as the effects of BDNF genotype on changes in cognition and symptoms.
There were significant genotype effects on within-subject changes in frontal lobe gray matter (GM), lateral ventricles and sulcal CSF volumes. Met-allele-carriers had significantly greater reductions in frontal GM and reciprocal enlargements in lateral ventricles and sulcal (especially frontal and temporal) CSF volumes than Val homozygous patients. Independent of BDNF genotype, more antipsychotic exposure between MRI scans correlated with greater frontal GM volume reductions particularly among initially treatment naïve patients. There were no statistically significant genotype effects on within-subject changes in cognition or symptoms.
BDNFMet variant may be one of several factors affecting progressive brain volumes changes in schizophrenia.
The autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of conditions characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction and communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors1. Individuals with an ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability (ID)2. While ASDs are known to be highly heritable (~90%)3, the underlying genetic determinants are still largely unknown. Here, we analyzed the genome-wide characteristics of rare (<1% frequency) copy number variation (CNV) in ASD using dense genotyping arrays. When comparing 996 ASD individuals of European ancestry to 1,287 matched controls, cases were found to carry a higher global burden of rare, genic CNVs (1.19 fold, P= 0.012), especially so for loci previously implicated in either ASD and/or intellectual disability (1.69 fold, P= 3.4×10−4). Among the CNVs, there were numerous de novo and inherited events, sometimes in combination in a given family, implicating many novel ASD genes like SHANK2, SYNGAP1, DLGAP2 and the X-linked DDX53-PTCHD1 locus. We also discovered an enrichment of CNVs disrupting functional gene-sets involved in cellular proliferation, projection and motility, and GTPase/Ras signaling. Our results reveal many new genetic and functional targets in ASD that may lead to final connected pathways.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent a group of childhood neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in verbal communication, impairment of social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of interests and behaviour. To identify common genetic risk factors underlying ASDs, here we present the results of genome-wide association studies on a cohort of 780 families (3,101 subjects) with affected children, and a second cohort of 1,204 affected subjects and 6,491 control subjects, all of whom were of European ancestry. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms between cadherin 10 (CDH10) and cadherin 9 (CDH9)—two genes encoding neuronal cell-adhesion molecules—revealed strong association signals, with the most significant SNP being rs4307059 (P = 3.4 × 10−8, odds ratio = 1.19). These signals were replicated in two independent cohorts, with combined P values ranging from 7.4 × 10−8 to 2.1 × 10−10. Our results implicate neuronal cell-adhesion molecules in the pathogenesis of ASDs, and represent, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of genome-wide significant association of common variants with susceptibility to ASDs.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are childhood neurodevelopmental disorders with complex genetic origins1–4. Previous studies focusing on candidate genes or genomic regions have identified several copy number variations (CNVs) that are associated with an increased risk of ASDs5–9. Here we present the results from a whole-genome CNV study on a cohort of 859 ASD cases and 1,409 healthy children of European ancestry who were genotyped with ~550,000 single nucleotide polymorphism markers, in an attempt to comprehensively identify CNVs conferring susceptibility to ASDs. Positive findings were evaluated in an independent cohort of 1,336 ASD cases and 1,110 controls of European ancestry. Besides previously reported ASD candidate genes, such as NRXN1 (ref. 10) and CNTN4 (refs 11, 12), several new susceptibility genes encoding neuronal cell-adhesion molecules, including NLGN1 and ASTN2, were enriched with CNVs in ASD cases compared to controls (P = 9.5 × 10−3). Furthermore, CNVs within or surrounding genes involved in the ubiquitin pathways, including UBE3A, PARK2, RFWD2 and FBXO40, were affected by CNVs not observed in controls (P = 3.3 × 10−3). We also identified duplications 55 kilobases upstream of complementary DNA AK123120 (P = 3.6 × 10−6). Although these variants may be individually rare, they target genes involved in neuronal cell-adhesion or ubiquitin degradation, indicating that these two important gene networks expressed within the central nervous system may contribute to the genetic susceptibility of ASD.
Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have a substantial genetic basis, most of the known genetic risk has been traced to rare variants, principally copy number variants (CNVs). To identify common risk variation, the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium genotyped 1558 rigorously defined ASD families for 1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and analyzed these SNP genotypes for association with ASD. In one of four primary association analyses, the association signal for marker rs4141463, located within MACROD2, crossed the genome-wide association significance threshold of P < 5 × 10−8. When a smaller replication sample was analyzed, the risk allele at rs4141463 was again over-transmitted; yet, consistent with the winner's curse, its effect size in the replication sample was much smaller; and, for the combined samples, the association signal barely fell below the P < 5 × 10−8 threshold. Exploratory analyses of phenotypic subtypes yielded no significant associations after correction for multiple testing. They did, however, yield strong signals within several genes, KIAA0564, PLD5, POU6F2, ST8SIA2 and TAF1C.
Transcription factors, including the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family, regulate numerous genes and play vital roles in controlling gene expression. Consequently, transcription factor mutations can lead to phenotypic pleiotropy, and may be a candidate mechanism underlying the complex genetics and heterogeneous phenotype of schizophrenia. Neurogenin1 (NEUROG1; a.k.a. Ngn1 or Neurod3), a bHLH transcription factor encoded on a known schizophrenia linkage region in 5q31.1, induces glutamatergic and suppresses GABAergic neuronal differentiation during embryonic neurodevelopment. The goal of this study is to investigate NEUROG1 effects on schizophrenia risk and on phenotypic features of schizophrenia. We tested 392 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 226 healthy normal volunteers for association with NEUROG1. Major alleles on two NEUROG1-associated SNPs (rs2344484-C-allele and rs8192558-G-allele) were significantly more prevalent among patients (p≤.0018). Approximately 80% of the sample also underwent high-resolution, multi-spectral magnetic resonance brain imaging and standardized neuropsychological assessment. There were significant rs2344484 genotype main effects on total cerebral gray matter (GM) and temporal GM volumes (p≤.05). C-allele-carrier patients and healthy volunteers had smaller total cerebral GM and temporal GM volumes than their respective T-homozygous counterparts. rs2344484-C-allele was further associated with generalized cognitive deficits among schizophrenia patients but not in healthy volunteers. Our findings replicate previous association between NEUROG1 and schizophrenia. More importantly, this is the first study to examine brain morphological and neurocognitive correlates of NEUROG1. rs2344484-C-allele may affect NEUROG1’s role in transcription regulation such that brain morphology and cognitive abilities are altered resulting in increased susceptibility to develop schizophrenia.
candidate gene; endophenotype; MRI; cognition; schizophrenia; neurogenin
Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is an enzyme expressed in the brain that metabolizes dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. Abnormalities of serotonin neurotransmission have long been implicated in the psychopathology of autism. A polymorphism exists within the promoter region of the MAOA gene that influences MAOA expression levels so that “low activity” alleles are associated with increased neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Individuals with autism often exhibit elevated serotonin levels. Additional studies indicate that the “low activity” allele may be associated with lower IQ and more severe autistic symptoms. In this study we genotyped the MAOA promoter polymorphism in a group of 29 males (age 2–3 years) with autism and a group of 39 healthy pediatric controls for whom brain MRI data was available. We found a consistent association between the “low activity” allele and larger brain volumes for regions of the cortex in children with autism but not in controls. We did not find evidence for over-transmission of the “low activity” allele in a separate sample of 114 affected sib pairfamilies. Nor did we find any unknown SNPs in yet another sample of 96 probands. Future studies will determine if there is a more severe clinical phenotype associated with both the “low activity” genotype and the larger brain volumes in our sample.
autism; MAOA; neuroimaging; genetics
The genetics underlying the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is complex and remains poorly understood. Previous work has demonstrated an important role for structural variation in a subset of cases, but has lacked the resolution necessary to move beyond detection of large regions of potential interest to identification of individual genes. To pinpoint genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. Through prioritization of exonic deletions (eDels), exonic duplications (eDups), and whole gene duplication events (gDups), we identified more than 150 loci harboring rare variants in multiple unrelated probands, but no controls. Importantly, 27 of these were confirmed on examination of an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and an additional 1,051 controls. Rare variants at known loci, including exonic deletions at NRXN1 and whole gene duplications encompassing UBE3A and several other genes in the 15q11–q13 region, were observed in the course of these analyses. Strong support was likewise observed for previously unreported genes such as BZRAP1, an adaptor molecule known to regulate synaptic transmission, with eDels or eDups observed in twelve unrelated cases but no controls (p = 2.3×10−5). Less is known about MDGA2, likewise observed to be case-specific (p = 1.3×10−4). But, it is notable that the encoded protein shows an unexpectedly high similarity to Contactin 4 (BLAST E-value = 3×10−39), which has also been linked to disease. That hundreds of distinct rare variants were each seen only once further highlights complexity in the ASDs and points to the continued need for larger cohorts.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common neurodevelopmental syndromes with a strong genetic component. ASDs are characterized by disturbances in social behavior, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive behaviors and/or a restricted range of interests. To identify genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. To enrich for variants most likely to interfere with gene function, we restricted our analyses to deletions and gains encompassing exons. Of the many genomic regions highlighted, 27 were seen to harbor rare variants in cases and not controls, both in the first phase of our analysis, and also in an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and 1,051 controls. More work in a larger number of individuals will be required to determine which of the rare alleles highlighted here are indeed related to the ASDs and how they act to shape risk.