The quest to understand the neurobiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is ongoing with multiple lines of evidence indicating abnormalities of glia, mitochondria, and glutamate in both disorders. Despite high heritability estimates of 81% for schizophrenia and 75% for bipolar disorder, compelling links between findings from neurobiological studies, and findings from large-scale genetic analyses, are only beginning to emerge.
Ten publically available gene sets (pathways) related to glia, mitochondria, and glutamate were tested for association to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder using MAGENTA as the primary analysis method. To determine the robustness of associations, secondary analyses were performed with: ALIGATOR, INRICH, and Set Screen. Data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) were used for all analyses. There were 1,068,286 SNP-level p-values for schizophrenia (9,394 cases/12,462 controls), and 2,088,878 SNP-level p-values for bipolar disorder (7,481 cases/9,250 controls).
The Glia-Oligodendrocyte pathway was associated with schizophrenia, after correction for multiple tests, according to primary analysis (MAGENTA p = 0.0005, 75% requirement for individual gene significance) and also achieved nominal levels of significance with INRICH (p = 0.0057) and ALIGATOR (p = 0.022). For bipolar disorder, Set Screen yielded nominally and method-wide significant associations to all three glial pathways, with strongest association to the Glia-Astrocyte pathway (p = 0.002).
Consistent with findings of white matter abnormalities in schizophrenia by other methods of study, the Glia-Oligodendrocyte pathway was associated with schizophrenia in our genomic study. These findings suggest that the abnormalities of myelination observed in schizophrenia are at least in part due to inherited factors, contrasted with the alternative of purely environmental causes (e.g. medication effects or lifestyle). While not the primary purpose of our study, our results also highlight the consequential nature of alternative choices regarding pathway analysis, in that results varied somewhat across methods, despite application to identical datasets and pathways.