We investigated the variation in neuropsychological function explained by risk alleles at the psychosis susceptibility gene ZNF804A and its interacting partners using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), polygenic score and epistatic analyses. Of particular importance was the relative contribution of the polygenic score versus epistasis in variation explained.
The objectives were twofold: first, to assess the association between SNPs in ZNF804A and the ZNF804A polygenic score with measures of cognition in cases with psychosis. The second was to assess whether epistasis within the ZNF804A pathway could explain additional variation above and beyond that explained by the polygenic score.
Design, Setting and Participants
Patients with psychosis (N = 424) were assessed in areas of cognitive ability impaired in schizophrenia including IQ, memory, attention and social cognition. We used the Psychiatric GWAS Consortium (PGC1) schizophrenia GWAS to calculate a polygenic score based on identified risk variants within this genetic pathway. Cognitive measures significantly associated with the polygenic score were tested for an epistatic component using a training set (N = 170), which was used to develop linear regression models containing the polygenic score and two-SNP interactions. The best-fitting models were tested for replication in two independent test sets of cases: 1) 170 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 2) 84 patients with broad psychosis (including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and other psychosis).
Higher polygenic scores were associated with poorer performance amongst patients on IQ, memory and social cognition, explaining 1-3% of variation on these scores (p-values ranged from 0.012-0.034). Using a narrow psychosis training set and independent test sets of narrow phenotype psychosis (schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder), broad psychosis, and controls (N = 89) respectively, the addition of two interaction terms containing two SNPs each increased the R2 for spatial working memory (SWM) strategy in the independent psychosis test sets from 1.2% using the polygenic score only to 4.8% (p-values = 0.11 and 0.0012), but did not explain additional variation in controls.
Conclusions and Relevance
These data support a role for the ZNF804A pathway in IQ, memory and social cognition in cases. Further we show that epistasis increases variation explained above the contribution of the polygenic score.