22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is a genetic disorder associated with a microdeletion of chromosome 22q11. In addition to high rates of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children with 22q11DS have a specific neuropsychological profile with particular deficits in visuospatial and working memory. However, the neurobiological substrate underlying these deficits is poorly understood. We investigated brain function during a visuospatial working memory (SWM) task in eight children with 22q11DS and 13 healthy controls, using fMRI. Both groups showed task-related activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and bilateral parietal association cortices. Controls activated parietal and occipital regions significantly more than those with 22q11DS but there was no significant between-group difference in DLPFC. In addition, while controls had a significant age-related increase in the activation of posterior brain regions and an age-related decrease in anterior regions, the 22q11DS children showed the opposite pattern. Genetically determined differences in the development of specific brain systems may underpin the cognitive deficits in 22q11DS, and may contribute to the later development of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Velo-cardio-facial syndrome; 22q11.2 deletion syndrome; Spatial working memory; fMRI; Ageing; Schizophrenia
We evaluated the hypothesis that dopaminergic polymorphisms are risk factors for schizophrenia (SZ). In stage I, we screened 18 dopamine-related genes in two independent US Caucasian samples: 150 trios and 328 cases/501 controls. The most promising associations were detected with SLC6A3 (alias DAT), DRD3, COMT and SLC18A2 (alias VMAT2). In stage II, we comprehensively evaluated these four genes by genotyping 68 SNPs in all 478 cases and 501 controls from stage I. Fifteen (23.1%) significant associations were found (p ≤ 0.05). We sought epistasis between pairs of SNPs providing evidence of a main effect and observed 17 significant interactions (169 tests); 41.2% of significant interactions involved rs3756450 (5′ near promoter) or rs464049 (intron 4) at SLC6A3. In stage III, we confirmed our findings by genotyping 65 SNPs among 659 Bulgarian trios. Both SLC6A3 variants implicated in the US interactions were overtransmitted in this cohort (rs3756450, p = 0.035; rs464049, p = 0.011). Joint analyses from stages II and III identified associations at all four genes (pjoint < 0.05). We tested 29 putative interactions from stage II and detected replication between seven locus pairs (p ≤ 0.05). Simulations suggested our stage II and stage III interaction results were unlikely to have occurred by chance (p = 0.008 and 0.001, respectively). In stage IV we evaluasted rs464049 and rs3756450 for functional effects and found significant allele-specific differences at rs3756450 using electrophoretic mobility shift assays and dualluciferase promoter assays. Our data suggest that a network of dopaminergic polymorphisms increase risk for SZ.
From the perspective of those of us working on the genetics of schizophrenia, recent progress in identifying specific genetic risk factors at highly robust levels of statistical significance has been striking. However, the prevailing response among other schizophrenia researchers and some funders, families, and sufferers is often one of disappointment. In particular, it is often claimed that these discoveries explain only a small proportion of the genetic risk and hence tell us little about the nature of schizophrenia. The purpose of this article is to persuade you that recent genetic findings, while only revealing the tip of a complex genetic iceberg, already have profound implications for our general understanding of the classification and pathogenesis of schizophrenia and related disorders and that these have implications for schizophrenia research of all kinds.
schizophrenia; genetics; copy number variants; GWAS; classification; nosology; pathogenesis
Several studies in the last 5 years have shown that newly arising (de novo) mutations contribute to the genetics of schizophrenia (SZ). This will replenish genetic variants removed by natural selection and could, in part, explain why SZ prevalence has remained stable in the general population despite low fecundity. The strongest evidence to date for the association between SZ and de novo mutation comes from studies of de novo copy number variation (CNV), where the rate of de novo CNV mutation is shown to be increased in cases when compared with controls, and genes disrupted by these mutations are enriched for those encoding proteins involved in synaptic function and development. Previous estimates have shown high levels of negative selection operating against SZ associated CNVs, and we provide an updated estimate of these levels of selection using the most recently published data. Recent studies involving next-generation sequencing technology have provided preliminary evidence that de novo single-nucleotide mutations might also increase risk of SZ. However, these are very small in scale, and the results can only be considered as preliminary.
copy number variation; selection; fecundity
Additional information about risk genes or risk pathways for diseases can be extracted from genome-wide association studies through analyses of groups of markers. The most commonly employed approaches involve combining individual marker data by adding the test statistics, or summing the logarithms of their P-values, and then using permutation testing to derive empirical P-values that allow for the statistical dependence of single-marker tests arising from linkage disequilibrium (LD). In the present study, we use simulated data to show that these approaches fail to reflect the structure of the sampling error, and the effect of this is to give undue weight to correlated markers. We show that the results obtained are internally inconsistent in the presence of strong LD, and are externally inconsistent with the results derived from multi-locus analysis. We also show that the results obtained from regression and multivariate Hotelling T2 (H-T2) testing, but not those obtained from permutations, are consistent with the theoretically expected distributions, and that the H-T2 test has greater power to detect gene-wide associations in real datasets. Finally, we show that while the results from permutation testing can be made to approximate those from regression and multivariate Hotelling T2 testing through aggressive LD pruning of markers, this comes at the cost of loss of information. We conclude that when conducting multi-locus analyses of sets of single-nucleotide polymorphisms, regression or multivariate Hotelling T2 testing, which give equivalent results, are preferable to the other more commonly applied approaches.
gene-wide analysis; correlated tests; GWAS
There is recent evidence of some degree of shared genetic susceptibility between adult schizophrenia and childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for rare chromosomal variants.
To determine whether there is overlap between common alleles conferring risk of schizophrenia in adults with those that do so for ADHD in children.
We used recently published Psychiatric Genome-wide Association Study (GWAS) Consortium (PGC) adult schizophrenia data to define alleles over-represented in people with schizophrenia and tested whether those alleles were more common in 727 children with ADHD than in 2067 controls.
Schizophrenia risk alleles discriminated ADHD cases from controls (P = 1.04×10–4, R2 = 0.45%); stronger discrimination was given by alleles that were risk alleles for both adult schizophrenia and adult bipolar disorder (also derived from a PGC data-set) (P = 9.98×10–6, R2 = 0.59%).
This increasing evidence for a small, but significant, shared genetic susceptibility between adult schizophrenia and childhood ADHD highlights the importance of research work across traditional diagnostic boundaries.
With advances in laboratory technology, an increasing number of potentially pathogenic CNVs is recognised. The phenotypic effects of some CNVs are well characterised, however, it remains unclear how much information reaches the parents of affected children and by what route. The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (del22q11.2) is caused by the deletion of approximately 40 genes from the long arm of chromosome 22 and was first described in 1955 . Our study reports the extent to which parents of an affected child are aware of the various manifestation of the condition and describes how they first learned about these potential problems.
22q11.2 deletion syndrome; 22q11.2DS; Velo-Cardio-Facial syndrome; Parental awareness; Physical manifestations; Psychiatric manifestations
Several nonsyndromic high-grade myopia loci have been mapped primarily by microsatellite markers and a limited number of pedigrees. In this study, whole-genome linkage scans were performed for high-grade myopia, using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 254 families from five independent sites.
Genomic DNA samples from 1411 subjects were genotyped (Linkage Panel IVb; Illumina, San Diego, CA). Linkage analyses were performed on 1201 samples from 10 Asian, 12 African-American, and 221 Caucasian families, screening for 5744 SNPs after quality-control exclusions. Two disease states defined by sphere (SPH) and spherical equivalence (SE; sphere+cylinder/2) were analyzed. Parametric and nonparametric two-point and multipoint linkage analyses were performed using the FASTLINK, HOMOG, and MERLIN programs. Multiple stratified datasets were examined, including overall, center-specific, and race-specific. Linkage regions were declared suggestive if they had a peak LOD score ≥ 1.5.
The MYP1, MYP3, MYP6, MYP11, MYP12, and MYP14 loci were replicated. The novel region q34.11 on chromosome 9 (max NPL= 2.07 at rs913275) was identified. Chromosome 12, region q21.2-24.12 (36.59 cM, MYP3 locus) showed significant linkage (peak HLOD = 3.48) at rs337663 in the overall dataset by SPH and was detected by the Duke, Asian, and Caucasian subsets as well. Potential shared interval was race dependent—a 9.4-cM region (rs163016–rs1520724) driven by the Asian subset and a 1343-cM region (rs163016–rs1520724) driven by the Caucasian subset.
The present study is the largest linkage scan to date for familial high-grade myopia. The outcomes will facilitate the identification of genes implicated in myopic refractive error development and ocular growth.
A key pathological feature of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) is the abnormal extracellular accumulation of the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide. Thus altered Aβ degradation could be a major contributor to the development of LOAD. Variants in the gene encoding the Aβ-degrading enzyme, angiotensin-1 converting enzyme (ACE) therefore represent plausible candidates for association with LOAD pathology and risk. Following Alzgene meta-analyses of all published case-control studies, the ACE variants rs4291 and rs1800764 showed significant association with LOAD risk. Furthermore ACE haplotypes are associated with both plasma ACE levels and LOAD risk. We tested three ACE variants (rs4291, rs4343 and rs1800764) for association with LOAD in ten Caucasian case-control populations (n=8,212). No association was found using multiple logistic models (all p>0.09). We found no population heterogeneity (all p>0.38) or evidence for association with LOAD risk following meta-analysis of the ten populations for rs4343 (OR=1.00), rs4291 (OR=0.97) or rs1800764 (OR=0.99). Although we found no haplotypic association in our complete dataset (p=0.51), a significant global haplotypic p-value was observed in one population (p=0.007) due to an association of the H3 haplotype (OR=0.72, p=0.02) and a trend towards an association of H4 (OR=1.38, p=0.09) and H7 (OR=2.07, p=0.08) although these did not survive Bonferroni correction. Previously reported associations of ACE variants with LOAD will be diminished following this study. At best, ACE variants have modest effect sizes, which are likely part of a complex interaction between genetic, phenotypic and pharmacological effects that would be undetected in traditional case-control studies.
Alzheimer Disease; Late Onset; Angiotensin-1 Converting Enzyme; Haplotype; Heterogeneity; Meta-Analysis
The neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia provided a valuable
framework that allowed a condition that usually presents with frank disorder
in adolescence or early adulthood to be understood at least in part as a
consequence of events occurring early in development. However, the
implications of the neurodevelopmental hypothesis for nosological conceptions
of the disorder can only now be fully appreciated. Recent research indicates
genetic overlap between schizophrenia and syndromes in which psychopathology
is manifest in childhood and that are often grouped together as ‘
neurodevelopmental disorders’ such as autism-spectrum disorders,
intellectual disability and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. These
findings challenge the aetiological basis of current diagnostic categories
and, together with evidence for frequent comorbidity, suggest that we should
view the functional psychoses as members of a group of related and overlapping
syndromes that result in part from a combination of genetic and environmental
effects on brain development and that are associated with specific and general
impairments of cognitive function. This has important implications for future
research and for the configuration of psychiatric services.
Large collaborative Genome-wide Association studies of schizophrenia have identified genes and genomic regions that are associated with the disorder at highly stringent levels of statistical significance. Among these, Transcription factor 4 (TCF4) is one of the best supported although the associated SNP (rs9960767) is located within intron 3 and has no obvious function. Seeking the mechanism at TCF responsible for the association, we examined TCF4 for coding variants, and for cis regulated variation in TCF4 gene expression correlated with the associated SNP using an assay to detect differential allelic expression. Using data from the 1000 genomes project, we were unable to identify any nonsynonymous coding variants at the locus. Allele specific expression analysis using human post mortem brain samples revealed no evidence for cis-regulated mRNA expression related to genotype at the schizophrenia associated SNP. We conclude that association between schizophrenia and TCF4 is not mediated by a relatively common non-synonymous variant, or by a variant that alters mRNA expression as measured in adult human brain. It remains possible that the risk allele at this locus exerts effects on expression exclusively in a developmental context, in cell types or brain regions not adequately represented in our analysis, or through post-transcriptional effects, for example in the abundance of the protein or its sub-cellular distribution.
Allelic expression; TCF4; GWAS; eQTL; mRNA
We assessed the role of rare copy number variants (CNVs) in Alzheimer's disease (AD) using intensity data from 3260 AD cases and 1290 age-matched controls from the genome-wide association study (GWAS) conducted by the Genetic and Environmental Risk for Alzheimer's disease Consortium (GERAD). We did not observe a significant excess of rare CNVs in cases, although we did identify duplications overlapping APP and CR1 which may be pathogenic. We looked for an excess of CNVs in loci which have been highlighted in previous AD CNV studies, but did not replicate previous findings. Through pathway analyses, we observed suggestive evidence for biological overlap between single nucleotide polymorphisms and CNVs in AD susceptibility. We also identified that our sample of elderly controls harbours significantly fewer deletions >1 Mb than younger control sets in previous CNV studies on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (P = 8.9 × 10−4 and 0.024, respectively), raising the possibility that healthy elderly individuals have a reduced rate of large deletions. Thus, in contrast to diseases such as schizophrenia, autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, CNVs do not appear to make a significant contribution to the development of AD.
Given that genome wide association studies (GWAS) of psychiatric disorders have identified only a small number of convincingly associated variants, there is interest in seeking additional evidence for associated variants using tests of gene-gene interaction. Comprehensive pair-wise SNP-SNP interaction analysis is computationally intensive and the penalty for multiple testing is severe given the number of interactions possible. Aiming to minimize these statistical and computational burdens, we have explored approaches to prioritise SNPs for interaction analyses.
Primary interaction analyses were performed using the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium Bipolar Disorder GWAS (1868 cases, 2938 controls). Replication analyses were performed using the Genetic Association Information Network BD dataset (1001 cases, 1033 controls). SNPs were prioritized for interaction analysis that showed evidence for association that surpassed a number of nominally significant thresholds, are within genome-wide significant genes, or are within genes that are functionally related.
For no set of prioritized SNPs did we obtain evidence to support the hypothesis that the selection strategy identified pairs of variants that were enriched for true (statistical) interactions.
SNPs prioritized according to a number of criteria do not have a raised prior probability for significant interaction that is detectable in samples of this size. As is now widely accepted for single SNP analysis, we argue the use of significance levels reflecting only the number of tests performed does not offer an appropriate degree of protection against the potential for GWAS studies to generate an enormous number of false positive interactions.
GWAS; SNP; epistasis; association; interaction; gene
Several large, rare chromosomal copy number variants (CNVs) have recently been shown to increase risk for schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders including autism, ADHD, learning difficulties and epilepsy.
We wanted to examine the frequencies of these schizophrenia-associated variants in a large sample of individuals with non-psychiatric illnesses to better understand the robustness and specificity of the association with schizophrenia.
We used Affymetrix 500K microarray data from 10,259 individuals from the UK Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) who are affected with six non-psychiatric disorders (coronary artery disease, Crohn's disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, types 1 and 2 diabetes) to establish the frequencies of nine CNV loci strongly implicated in schizophrenia, and compared them with the previous findings.
Deletions at 1q21.1, 3q29, 15q11.2, 15q13.1 and 22q11.2 (VCFS region), and duplications at 16p11.2 were found significantly more often in schizophrenia cases, compared with the WTCCC reference set. Deletions at 17p12 and 17q12, were also more common in schizophrenia cases but not significantly so, while duplications at 16p13.1 were found at nearly the same rate as in previous schizophrenia samples. The frequencies of CNVs in the WTCCC non-psychiatric controls at three of the loci (15q11.2, 16p13.1 and 17p12) were significantly higher than those reported in previous control populations.
The evidence for association with schizophrenia is compelling for six rare CNV loci, while the remaining three require further replication in large studies. Risk at these loci extends to other neurodevelopmental disorders but their involvement in common non-psychiatric disorders should also be investigated.
CNV; Schizophrenia; WTCCC
We have previously demonstrated that routinely collected primary care data can be used to identify potential participants for trials in depression . Here we demonstrate how patients with psychotic disorders can be identified from primary care records for potential inclusion in a cohort study. We discuss the strengths and limitations of this approach; assess its potential value and report challenges encountered.
We designed an algorithm with which we searched for patients with a lifetime diagnosis of psychotic disorders within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) database of routinely collected health data. The algorithm was validated against the "gold standard" of a well established operational criteria checklist for psychotic and affective illness (OPCRIT). Case notes of 100 patients from a community mental health team (CMHT) in Swansea were studied of whom 80 had matched GP records.
The algorithm had favourable test characteristics, with a very good ability to detect patients with psychotic disorders (sensitivity > 0.7) and an excellent ability not to falsely identify patients with psychotic disorders (specificity > 0.9).
With certain limitations our algorithm can be used to search the general practice data and reliably identify patients with psychotic disorders. This may be useful in identifying candidates for potential inclusion in cohort studies.
Recent findings from genetic epidemiology and from genome-wide association studies point strongly to a partial overlap in the genes that contribute susceptibility to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BD). Previous data have also directly implicated one of the best supported schizophrenia-associated loci, zinc finger binding protein 804A (ZNF804A), as showing trans-disorder effects, and the same is true for one of the best supported bipolar loci, calcium channel, voltage-dependent, L type, alpha 1C subunit (CACNA1C) which has also been associated with schizophrenia. We have undertaken a cross-phenotype study based upon the remaining variants that show genome-wide evidence for association in large schizophrenia and BD meta-analyses. These comprise in schizophrenia, SNPs in or in the vicinity of transcription factor 4 (TCF4), neurogranin (NRGN) and an extended region covering the MHC locus on chromosome 6. For BD, the strongly supported variants are in the vicinity of ankyrin 3, node of Ranvier (ANK3) and polybromo-1 (PBRM1). Using data sets entirely independent of their original discoveries, we observed strong evidence that the PBRM1 locus is also associated with schizophrenia (P = 0.00015) and nominally significant evidence (P < 0.05) that the NRGN and the extended MHC region are associated with BD. Moreover, considering this highly restricted set of loci as a group, the evidence for trans-disorder effects is compelling (P = 4.7 × 10−5). Including earlier reported data for trans-disorder effects for ZNF804A and CACNA1C, six out of eight of the most robustly associated loci for either disorder show trans-disorder effects.
Hyperekplexia is a human neurological disorder characterized by an excessive startle response and is typically caused by missense and nonsense mutations in the gene encoding the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit (GLRA1)1-3. Genetic heterogeneity has been confirmed in isolated sporadic cases with mutations in other postsynaptic glycinergic proteins including the GlyR β subunit (GLRB)4, gephyrin (GPHN)5 and RhoGEF collybistin (ARHGEF9)6. However, many sporadic patients diagnosed with hyperekplexia do not carry mutations in these genes2-7. Here we reveal that missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations in the presynaptic glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene (SLC6A5)8 also cause hyperekplexia. Patients harbouring mutations in SLC6A5 presented with hypertonia, an exaggerated startle response to tactile or acoustic stimuli, and life-threatening neonatal apnoea episodes. GlyT2 mutations result in defective subcellular localisation and/or decreased glycine uptake, with selected mutations affecting predicted glycine and Na+ binding sites. Our results demonstrate that SLC6A5 is a major gene for hyperekplexia and define the first neurological disorder linked to mutations in a Na+/Cl−-dependent transporter for a classical fast neurotransmitter. By analogy, we suggest that in other human disorders where defects in postsynaptic receptors have been identified, similar symptoms could result from defects in the cognate presynaptic neurotransmitter transporter.
Catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) is a catabolic enzyme involved in the degradation of a number of bioactive molecules; of principal interest to psychiatry, these include dopamine. The enzyme is encoded by the COMT gene. COMT is located (along with 47 other genes) in a fragment of chromosome 22q11 which when deleted results in a complex syndrome, the psychiatric manifestations of which include schizophrenia and other psychoses. These 2 observations have placed COMT near the top of a rather long list of plausible candidate genes for schizophrenia. The ability to test the hypothesis that COMT might be a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia has been simplified in principle by the existence of a valine-to-methionine (Val/Met) polymorphism which results respectively in high and low activity forms of the enzyme. Given the unequivocal effect of this polymorphism on the function of COMT, and the evidence for a critical role for dopamine in the pathophysiology and treatment of psychosis, there are strong prior expectations that Val/Met influences susceptibility to schizophrenia as well as other psychiatric phenotypes. Indeed the Val/Met polymorphism has become the most widely studied polymorphism in psychiatry. In this review, we consider the evidence for and against the involvement of COMT in schizophrenia. The current data allow us to virtually exclude a simple relationship between schizophrenia and the Val/Met variant previously thought to dominate COMT function. However, recent data suggest a more complex pattern of genetic regulation of COMT function beyond that attributable to the Val/Met locus. Moreover, it is also clear that there is a complex nonlinear relationship between dopamine availability and brain function. These 2 factors, allied to phenotypic complexity within schizophrenia, make it difficult to draw strong conclusions regarding COMT in schizophrenia. Nevertheless, emerging research that takes greater account of all these levels of complexity is beginning to provide tantalizing, but far from definitive, support for the view that COMT influences susceptibility to at least some forms of psychosis.
schizophrenia; COMT; prefrontal cortex; association; cognition; psychosis
Associations between schizophrenia (SCZ) and polymorphisms at the regulator of G-protein signaling 4 (RGS4) gene have been reported (single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs] 1, 4, 7, and 18). Yet, similar to other SCZ candidate genes, studies have been inconsistent with respect to the associated alleles.
In an effort to resolve the role for RGS4 in SCZ susceptibility, we undertook a genotype-based meta-analysis using both published and unpublished family-based and case-control samples (total n = 13,807).
The family-based dataset consisted of 10 samples (2160 families). Significant associations with individual SNPs/haplotypes were not observed. In contrast, global analysis revealed significant transmission distortion (p = .0009). Specifically, analyses suggested overtransmission of two common haplotypes that account for the vast majority of all haplotypes. Separate analyses of 3486 cases and 3755 control samples (eight samples) detected a significant association with SNP 4 (p = .01). Individual haplotype analyses were not significant, but evaluation of test statistics from individual samples suggested significant associations.
Our collaborative meta-analysis represents one of the largest SCZ association studies to date. No individual risk factor arose from our analyses, but interpretation of these results is not straightforward. Our analyses suggest risk due to at least two common haplotypes in the presence of heterogeneity. Similar analysis for other putative susceptibility genes is warranted.
PMID: 16631129 CAMSID: cams1794
RGS4; schizophrenia; meta-analysis; association; polymorphism; linkage
Suicidal behaviour can be conceptualised as a continuum from suicidal ideation, to suicidal attempts to completed suicide. In this study we identify genes contributing to suicidal behaviour in the depression study RADIANT.
A quantitative suicidality score was composed of two items from the SCAN interview. In addition, the 251 depression cases with a history of serious suicide attempts were classified to form a discrete trait. The quantitative trait was correlated with younger onset of depression and number of episodes of depression, but not with gender. A genome-wide association study of 2,023 depression cases was performed to identify genes that may contribute to suicidal behaviour. Two Munich depression studies were used as replication cohorts to test the most strongly associated SNPs. No SNP was associated at genome-wide significance level. For the quantitative trait, evidence of association was detected at GFRA1, a receptor for the neurotrophin GDRA (p = 2e-06). For the discrete trait of suicide attempt, SNPs in KIAA1244 and RGS18 attained p-values of <5e-6. None of these SNPs showed evidence for replication in the additional cohorts tested. Candidate gene analysis provided some support for a polymorphism in NTRK2, which was previously associated with suicidality.
This study provides a genome-wide assessment of possible genetic contribution to suicidal behaviour in depression but indicates a genetic architecture of multiple genes with small effects. Large cohorts will be required to dissect this further.
Psychotic symptoms occur in approximately 40% of subjects with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are associated with more rapid cognitive decline and increased functional deficits. They show heritability up to 61% and have been proposed as a marker for a disease subtype suitable for gene mapping efforts. We undertook a combined analysis of three genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify loci that a) increase susceptibility to an AD and subsequent psychotic symptoms; or b) modify risk of psychotic symptoms in the presence of neurodegeneration caused by AD. 1299 AD cases with psychosis (AD+P), 735 AD cases without psychosis (AD-P) and 5659 controls were drawn from GERAD1, the NIA-LOAD family study and the University of Pittsburgh ADRC GWAS. Unobserved genotypes were imputed to provide data on > 1.8 million SNPs. Analyses in each dataset were completed comparing a) AD+P to AD-P cases, and b) AD+P cases with controls (GERAD1, ADRC only). Aside from the APOE locus, the strongest evidence for association was observed in an intergenic region on chromosome 4 (rs753129; ‘AD+PvAD-P’ P=2.85 × 10−7; ‘AD+PvControls’ P=1.11 × 10−4). SNPs upstream of SLC2A9 (rs6834555, P=3.0×10−7) and within VSNL1 (rs4038131, P=5.9×10−7) showed strongest evidence for association with AD+P when compared to controls. These findings warrant further investigation in larger, appropriately powered samples in which the presence of psychotic symptoms in AD has been well characterised.
Alzheimer’s disease; psychosis; behavioural symptoms; genome-wide association study; genetic
Genome-wide association studies allied with the identification of rare copy number variants have provided important insights into the genetic risk factors for schizophrenia. Recently, a meta-analysis of several genome-wide association studies found, in addition to several other markers, a single nucleotide polymorphism in intron 4 of the TCF4 gene that was associated with schizophrenia. TCF4 encodes a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that interacts with other transcription factors to activate or repress gene expression. TCF4 mutations also cause Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, an autosomal-dominant neurodevelopmental disorder associated with severe mental retardation. Variants in the TCF4 gene may therefore be associated with a range of neuropsychiatric phenotypes, including schizophrenia. Recessive forms of Pitt-Hopkins syndrome are caused by mutations in NRXN1 and CNTNAP2. Interestingly, NRXN1 deletions have been reported in schizophrenia, whereas CNTNAP2 variants are associated with several neuropsychiatric phenotypes. These data suggest that TCF4, NRXN1, and CNTNAP2 may participate in a biological pathway that is altered in patients with schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
schizophrenia; mental retardation; transcription factor; Pitt-Hopkins syndrome; TCF4; NRXN1; CNTNAP2
PICALM, the gene encoding phosphatidylinositol-binding clathrin assembly (picalm) protein, was recently shown to be associated with risk of Alzheimer disease (AD). Picalm is a key component of clathrin-mediated endocytosis. It recruits clathrin and adaptor protein (AP)-2 to the plasma membrane and along with AP-2 recognizes target proteins. The attached clathrin triskelions cause membrane deformation around the target proteins enclosing them within clathrin-coated vesicles to be processed in lysosomes or endosomes. We examined the distribution of picalm in control and AD brain tissue and measured levels of picalm mRNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Immunolabeling of brain tissue showed that picalm is predominately present in endothelial cells. This was further supported by the demonstration of picalm in human cerebral microvascular cells grown in culture. Picalm mRNA was elevated in relation to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase but not factor VIII-related antigen or CD31 mRNA in the frontal cortex in AD. No change was seen in the temporal cortex or thalamus. The transport of Aβ across vessel walls and into the bloodstream is a major pathway of Aβ removal from the brain and picalm is ideally situated within endothelial cells to participate in this process. Further research is needed to determine whether PICALM expression is influenced by Aβ levels and whether it affects Aβ uptake and transport by endothelial cells.
Alzheimer disease; β-amyloid; Clathrin-mediated endocytosis; Endothelial cells; Picalm
The gene encoding dysbindin-1 has recently been implicated in susceptibility to schizophrenia. In this issue of the JCI, Talbot et al. show that, contrary to expectations, dysbindin-1 is located presynaptically in glutamatergic neurons and is reduced at these locations in schizophrenia . Further studies of dysbindin-1 and the proteins with which it interacts can be expected to throw light on the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
There is strong evidence that genetic factors make substantial contributions to the etiology of autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, with heritability estimates being at least 80% for each. These illnesses have complex inheritance, with multiple genetic and environmental factors influencing disease risk; however, in psychiatry, complex genetics is further compounded by phenotypic complexity. Autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are effectively syndromic constellations of symptoms that define groups of patients with broadly similar outcomes and responses to treatment. As such the diagnostic categories are likely to be heterogeneous and the boundaries between them somewhat arbitrary. Recent applications of whole-genome technologies have discovered rare copy number variants and common single-nucleotide polymorphisms that are associated with risk of developing these disorders. Furthermore, these studies have shown an overlap between the genetic loci and even alleles that predispose to the different phenotypes. The findings have several implications. First, they show that copy number variations are likely to be important risk factors for autism and schizophrenia, whereas common single-nucleotide polymorphism alleles have a role in all disorders. Second, they imply that there are specific genetic loci and alleles that increase an individual's risk of developing any of these disorders. Finally, the findings suggest that some of the specific genetic loci implicated so far encode proteins, such as neurexins and neuroligins, that function in synaptic development and plasticity, and therefore may represent a common biological pathway for these disorders.