Publications by authors named "Rona J Strawbridge"

106 Publications

Genetic Variation in the ASTN2 Locus in Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Psychiatric Traits: Evidence for Pleiotropy Rather Than Shared Biology.

Genes (Basel) 2021 Jul 31;12(8). Epub 2021 Jul 31.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.

Background: The link between cardiometabolic and psychiatric illness has long been attributed to human behaviour, however recent research highlights shared biological mechanisms. The locus has been previously implicated in psychiatric and cardiometabolic traits, therefore this study aimed to systematically investigate the genetic architecture of in relation to a wide range of relevant traits.

Methods: Baseline questionnaire, assessment and genetic data of 402111 unrelated white British ancestry individuals from the UK Biobank was analysed. Genetic association analyses were conducted using PLINK 1.07, assuming an additive genetic model and adjusting for age, sex, genotyping chip, and population structure. Conditional analyses and linkage disequilibrium assessment were used to determine whether cardiometabolic and psychiatric signals were independent.

Results: Associations between genetic variants in the ASTN2 locus and blood pressure, total and central obesity, neuroticism, anhedonia and mood instability were identified. All analyses support the independence of the cardiometabolic traits from the psychiatric traits. In silico analyses provide support for the central obesity signal acting through , however most of the other signals are likely acting through other genes in the locus.

Conclusions: Our systematic analysis demonstrates that has pleiotropic effects on cardiometabolic and psychiatric traits, rather than contributing to shared pathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes12081194DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8391428PMC
July 2021

Phenotypic and genetic associations between anhedonia and brain structure in UK Biobank.

Transl Psychiatry 2021 07 16;11(1):395. Epub 2021 Jul 16.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Anhedonia is a core symptom of multiple psychiatric disorders and has been associated with alterations in brain structure. Genome-wide association studies suggest that anhedonia is heritable, with a polygenic architecture, but few studies have explored the association between genetic loading for anhedonia-indexed by polygenic risk scores for anhedonia (PRS-anhedonia)-and structural brain imaging phenotypes. Here, we investigated how anhedonia and PRS-anhedonia were associated with brain structure within the UK Biobank cohort. Brain measures (including total grey/white matter volumes, subcortical volumes, cortical thickness (CT) and white matter integrity) were analysed using linear mixed models in relation to anhedonia and PRS-anhedonia in 19,592 participants (9225 males; mean age = 62.6 years, SD = 7.44). We found that state anhedonia was significantly associated with reduced total grey matter volume (GMV); increased total white matter volume (WMV); smaller volumes in thalamus and nucleus accumbens; reduced CT within the paracentral cortex, the opercular part of inferior frontal gyrus, precentral cortex, insula and rostral anterior cingulate cortex; and poorer integrity of many white matter tracts. PRS-anhedonia was associated with reduced total GMV; increased total WMV; reduced white matter integrity; and reduced CT within the parahippocampal cortex, superior temporal gyrus and insula. Overall, both state anhedonia and PRS-anhedonia were associated with individual differences in multiple brain structures, including within reward-related circuits. These associations may represent vulnerability markers for psychopathology relevant to a range of psychiatric disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01522-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8289859PMC
July 2021

Effects of increased body mass index on employment status: a Mendelian randomisation study.

Int J Obes (Lond) 2021 08 22;45(8):1790-1801. Epub 2021 Jun 22.

MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Background: The obesity epidemic may have substantial implications for the global workforce, including causal effects on employment, but clear evidence is lacking. Obesity may prevent people from being in paid work through poor health or through social discrimination. We studied genetic variants robustly associated with body mass index (BMI) to investigate its causal effects on employment.

Dataset/methods: White UK ethnicity participants of working age (men 40-64 years, women 40-59 years), with suitable genetic data were selected in the UK Biobank study (N = 230,791). Employment status was categorised in two ways: first, contrasting being in paid employment with any other status; and second, contrasting being in paid employment with sickness/disability, unemployment, early retirement and caring for home/family. Socioeconomic indicators also investigated were hours worked, household income, educational attainment and Townsend deprivation index (TDI). We conducted observational and two-sample Mendelian randomisation (MR) analyses to investigate the effect of increased BMI on employment-related outcomes.

Results: Regressions showed BMI associated with all the employment-related outcomes investigated. MR analyses provided evidence for higher BMI causing increased risk of sickness/disability (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.04, 1.11, per 1 Kg/m BMI increase) and decreased caring for home/family (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.93, 0.99), higher TDI (Beta 0.038, 95% CI 0.018, 0.059), and lower household income (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.96, 0.99). In contrast, MR provided evidence for no causal effect of BMI on unemployment, early retirement, non-employment, hours worked or educational attainment. There was little evidence for causal effects differing by sex or age. Robustness tests yielded consistent results.

Discussion: BMI appears to exert a causal effect on employment status, largely by affecting an individual's health rather than through increased unemployment arising from social discrimination. The obesity epidemic may be contributing to increased worklessness and therefore could impose a substantial societal burden.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-00846-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8310793PMC
August 2021

The trans-ancestral genomic architecture of glycemic traits.

Nat Genet 2021 06 31;53(6):840-860. Epub 2021 May 31.

Department of Epidemiology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

Glycemic traits are used to diagnose and monitor type 2 diabetes and cardiometabolic health. To date, most genetic studies of glycemic traits have focused on individuals of European ancestry. Here we aggregated genome-wide association studies comprising up to 281,416 individuals without diabetes (30% non-European ancestry) for whom fasting glucose, 2-h glucose after an oral glucose challenge, glycated hemoglobin and fasting insulin data were available. Trans-ancestry and single-ancestry meta-analyses identified 242 loci (99 novel; P < 5 × 10), 80% of which had no significant evidence of between-ancestry heterogeneity. Analyses restricted to individuals of European ancestry with equivalent sample size would have led to 24 fewer new loci. Compared with single-ancestry analyses, equivalent-sized trans-ancestry fine-mapping reduced the number of estimated variants in 99% credible sets by a median of 37.5%. Genomic-feature, gene-expression and gene-set analyses revealed distinct biological signatures for each trait, highlighting different underlying biological pathways. Our results increase our understanding of diabetes pathophysiology by using trans-ancestry studies for improved power and resolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-021-00852-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7610958PMC
June 2021

Mendelian randomisation identifies alternative splicing of the FAS death receptor as a mediator of severe COVID-19.

medRxiv 2021 Apr 7. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Severe COVID-19 is characterised by immunopathology and epithelial injury. Proteomic studies have identified circulating proteins that are biomarkers of severe COVID-19, but cannot distinguish correlation from causation. To address this, we performed Mendelian randomisation (MR) to identify proteins that mediate severe COVID-19. Using protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL) data from the SCALLOP consortium, involving meta-analysis of up to 26,494 individuals, and COVID-19 genome-wide association data from the Host Genetics Initiative, we performed MR for 157 COVID-19 severity protein biomarkers. We identified significant MR results for five proteins: FAS, TNFRSF10A, CCL2, EPHB4 and LGALS9. Further evaluation of these candidates using sensitivity analyses and colocalization testing provided strong evidence to implicate the apoptosis-associated cytokine receptor FAS as a causal mediator of severe COVID-19. This effect was specific to severe disease. Using RNA-seq data from 4,778 individuals, we demonstrate that the pQTL at the locus results from genetically influenced alternate splicing causing skipping of exon 6. We show that the risk allele for very severe COVID-19 increases the proportion of transcripts lacking exon 6, and thereby increases soluble FAS. Soluble FAS acts as a decoy receptor for FAS-ligand, inhibiting apoptosis induced through membrane-bound FAS. In summary, we demonstrate a novel genetic mechanism that contributes to risk of severe of COVID-19, highlighting a pathway that may be a promising therapeutic target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.01.21254789DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8043484PMC
April 2021

Intake of food rich in saturated fat in relation to subclinical atherosclerosis and potential modulating effects from single genetic variants.

Sci Rep 2021 04 12;11(1):7866. Epub 2021 Apr 12.

Unit of Cardiovascular and Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 13, Box 210, 17177, Stockholm, Sweden.

The relationship between intake of saturated fats and subclinical atherosclerosis, as well as the possible influence of genetic variants, is poorly understood and investigated. We aimed to investigate this relationship, with a hypothesis that it would be positive, and to explore whether genetics may modulate it, using data from a European cohort including 3,407 participants aged 54-79 at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Subclinical atherosclerosis was assessed by carotid intima-media thickness (C-IMT), measured at baseline and after 30 months. Logistic regression (OR; 95% CI) was employed to assess the association between high intake of food rich in saturated fat (vs. low) and: (1) the mean and the maximum values of C-IMT in the whole carotid artery (C-IMT, C-IMT), in the bifurcation (Bif-), the common (CC-) and internal (ICA-) carotid arteries at baseline (binary, cut-point ≥ 75th), and (2) C-IMT progression (binary, cut-point > zero). For the genetic-diet interaction analyses, we considered 100,350 genetic variants. We defined interaction as departure from additivity of effects. After age- and sex-adjustment, high intake of saturated fat was associated with increased C-IMT (OR:1.27;1.06-1.47), CC-IMT (OR:1.22;1.04-1.44) and ICA-IMT (OR:1.26;1.07-1.48). However, in multivariate analysis results were no longer significant. No clear associations were observed between high intake of saturated fat and risk of atherosclerotic progression. There was no evidence of interactions between high intake of saturated fat and any of the genetic variants considered, after multiple testing corrections. High intake of saturated fats was not independently associated with subclinical atherosclerosis. Moreover, we did not identify any significant genetic-dietary fat interactions in relation to risk of subclinical atherosclerosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86324-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8042105PMC
April 2021

Sex-stratified genome-wide association study of multisite chronic pain in UK Biobank.

PLoS Genet 2021 04 8;17(4):e1009428. Epub 2021 Apr 8.

School of Life Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Chronic pain is highly prevalent worldwide and imparts a significant socioeconomic and public health burden. Factors influencing susceptibility to, and mechanisms of, chronic pain development, are not fully understood, but sex is thought to play a significant role, and chronic pain is more prevalent in women than in men. To investigate sex differences in chronic pain, we carried out a sex-stratified genome-wide association study of Multisite Chronic Pain (MCP), a derived chronic pain phenotype, in UK Biobank on 178,556 men and 209,093 women, as well as investigating sex-specific genetic correlations with a range of psychiatric, autoimmune and anthropometric phenotypes and the relationship between sex-specific polygenic risk scores for MCP and chronic widespread pain. We also assessed whether MCP-associated genes showed expression pattern enrichment across tissues. A total of 123 SNPs at five independent loci were significantly associated with MCP in men. In women, a total of 286 genome-wide significant SNPs at ten independent loci were discovered. Meta-analysis of sex-stratified GWAS outputs revealed a further 87 independent associated SNPs. Gene-level analyses revealed sex-specific MCP associations, with 31 genes significantly associated in females, 37 genes associated in males, and a single gene, DCC, associated in both sexes. We found evidence for sex-specific pleiotropy and risk for MCP was found to be associated with chronic widespread pain in a sex-differential manner. Male and female MCP were highly genetically correlated, but at an rg of significantly less than 1 (0.92). All 37 male MCP-associated genes and all but one of 31 female MCP-associated genes were found to be expressed in the dorsal root ganglion, and there was a degree of enrichment for expression in sex-specific tissues. Overall, the findings indicate that sex differences in chronic pain exist at the SNP, gene and transcript abundance level, and highlight possible sex-specific pleiotropy for MCP. Results support the proposition of a strong central nervous-system component to chronic pain in both sexes, additionally highlighting a potential role for the DRG and nociception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009428DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8031124PMC
April 2021

The association between C-reactive protein, mood disorder, and cognitive function in UK Biobank.

Eur Psychiatry 2021 Feb 1;64(1):e14. Epub 2021 Feb 1.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.

Background: Systemic inflammation has been linked with mood disorder and cognitive impairment. The extent of this relationship remains uncertain, with the effects of serum inflammatory biomarkers compared to genetic predisposition toward inflammation yet to be clearly established.

Methods: We investigated the magnitude of associations between C-reactive protein (CRP) measures, lifetime history of bipolar disorder or major depression, and cognitive function (reaction time and visuospatial memory) in 84,268 UK Biobank participants. CRP was measured in serum and a polygenic risk score for CRP was calculated, based on a published genome-wide association study. Multiple regression models adjusted for sociodemographic and clinical confounders.

Results: Increased serum CRP was significantly associated with mood disorder history (Kruskal-Wallis H = 196.06, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.002) but increased polygenic risk for CRP was not (F = 0.668, p = 0.648, η2 < 0.001). Compared to the lowest quintile, the highest serum CRP quintile was significantly associated with both negative and positive differences in cognitive performance (fully adjusted models: reaction time B = -0.030, 95% CI = -0.052, -0.008; visuospatial memory B = 0.066, 95% CI = 0.042, 0.089). More severe mood disorder categories were significantly associated with worse cognitive performance and this was not moderated by serum or genetic CRP level.

Conclusions: In this large cohort study, we found that measured inflammation was associated with mood disorder history, but genetic predisposition to inflammation was not. The association between mood disorder and worse cognitive performance was very small and did not vary by CRP level. The inconsistent relationship between CRP measures and cognitive performance warrants further study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/j.eurpsy.2021.6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8057439PMC
February 2021

LRIG proteins regulate lipid metabolism via BMP signaling and affect the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Commun Biol 2021 01 19;4(1):90. Epub 2021 Jan 19.

Department of Radiation Sciences, Oncology, Umeå University, SE-90187, Umeå, Sweden.

Leucine-rich repeats and immunoglobulin-like domains (LRIG) proteins have been implicated as regulators of growth factor signaling; however, the possible redundancy among mammalian LRIG1, LRIG2, and LRIG3 has hindered detailed elucidation of their physiological functions. Here, we show that Lrig-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are deficient in adipogenesis and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. In contrast, transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) and receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling appeared unaltered in Lrig-null cells. The BMP signaling defect was rescued by ectopic expression of LRIG1 or LRIG3 but not by expression of LRIG2. Caenorhabditis elegans with mutant LRIG/sma-10 variants also exhibited a lipid storage defect. Human LRIG1 variants were strongly associated with increased body mass index (BMI) yet protected against type 2 diabetes; these effects were likely mediated by altered adipocyte morphology. These results demonstrate that LRIG proteins function as evolutionarily conserved regulators of lipid metabolism and BMP signaling and have implications for human disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01613-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7815736PMC
January 2021

The overlap of genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia and cardiometabolic disease can be used to identify metabolically different groups of individuals.

Sci Rep 2021 01 12;11(1):632. Epub 2021 Jan 12.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Room 111, Public Health, 1 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, UK.

Understanding why individuals with severe mental illness (Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder) have increased risk of cardiometabolic disease (including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and identifying those at highest risk of cardiometabolic disease are important priority areas for researchers. For individuals with European ancestry we explored whether genetic variation could identify sub-groups with different metabolic profiles. Loci associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder from previous genome-wide association studies and loci that were also implicated in cardiometabolic processes and diseases were selected. In the IMPROVE study (a high cardiovascular risk sample) and UK Biobank (general population sample) multidimensional scaling was applied to genetic variants implicated in both psychiatric and cardiometabolic disorders. Visual inspection of the resulting plots used to identify distinct clusters. Differences between these clusters were assessed using chi-squared and Kruskall-Wallis tests. In IMPROVE, genetic loci associated with both schizophrenia and cardiometabolic disease (but not bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder) identified three groups of individuals with distinct metabolic profiles. This grouping was replicated within UK Biobank, with somewhat less distinction between metabolic profiles. This work focused on individuals of European ancestry and is unlikely to apply to more genetically diverse populations. Overall, this study provides proof of concept that common biology underlying mental and physical illness may help to stratify subsets of individuals with different cardiometabolic profiles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79964-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7804422PMC
January 2021

Sex-dimorphic genetic effects and novel loci for fasting glucose and insulin variability.

Nat Commun 2021 01 5;12(1):24. Epub 2021 Jan 5.

Department of Biostatistics and Data Science, Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.

Differences between sexes contribute to variation in the levels of fasting glucose and insulin. Epidemiological studies established a higher prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in men and impaired glucose tolerance in women, however, the genetic component underlying this phenomenon is not established. We assess sex-dimorphic (73,089/50,404 women and 67,506/47,806 men) and sex-combined (151,188/105,056 individuals) fasting glucose/fasting insulin genetic effects via genome-wide association study meta-analyses in individuals of European descent without diabetes. Here we report sex dimorphism in allelic effects on fasting insulin at IRS1 and ZNF12 loci, the latter showing higher RNA expression in whole blood in women compared to men. We also observe sex-homogeneous effects on fasting glucose at seven novel loci. Fasting insulin in women shows stronger genetic correlations than in men with waist-to-hip ratio and anorexia nervosa. Furthermore, waist-to-hip ratio is causally related to insulin resistance in women, but not in men. These results position dissection of metabolic and glycemic health sex dimorphism as a steppingstone for understanding differences in genetic effects between women and men in related phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19366-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7785747PMC
January 2021

Genetic Predisposition to Coronary Artery Disease in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

Circ Genom Precis Med 2020 12 13;13(6):e002769. Epub 2020 Aug 13.

The Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences & Informatics (A.D.M.), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, U.K.

Background: Coronary artery disease (CAD) is accelerated in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D).

Methods: To test whether this reflects differential genetic influences on CAD risk in subjects with T2D, we performed a systematic assessment of genetic overlap between CAD and T2D in 66 643 subjects (27 708 with CAD and 24 259 with T2D). Variants showing apparent association with CAD in stratified analyses or evidence of interaction were evaluated in a further 117 787 subjects (16 694 with CAD and 11 537 with T2D).

Results: None of the previously characterized CAD loci was found to have specific effects on CAD in T2D individuals, and a genome-wide interaction analysis found no new variants for CAD that could be considered T2D specific. When we considered the overall genetic correlations between CAD and its risk factors, we found no substantial differences in these relationships by T2D background.

Conclusions: This study found no evidence that the genetic architecture of CAD differs in those with T2D compared with those without T2D.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCGEN.119.002769DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7748049PMC
December 2020

Exploring the Role of Contactins across Psychological, Psychiatric and Cardiometabolic Traits within UK Biobank.

Genes (Basel) 2020 11 10;11(11). Epub 2020 Nov 10.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK.

Individuals with severe mental illness have an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases compared to the general population. Shared risk factors and medication effects explain part of this excess risk; however, there is growing evidence to suggest that shared biology (including genetic variation) is likely to contribute to comorbidity between mental and physical illness. Contactins are a family of genes involved in development of the nervous system and implicated, though genome-wide association studies, in a wide range of psychological, psychiatric and cardiometabolic conditions. Contactins are plausible candidates for shared pathology between mental and physical health. We used data from UK Biobank to systematically assess how genetic variation in contactin genes was associated with a wide range of psychological, psychiatric and cardiometabolic conditions. We also investigated whether associations for cardiometabolic and psychological traits represented the same or distinct signals and how the genetic variation might influence the measured traits. We identified: A novel genetic association between variation in and current smoking; two independent signals in for BMI; and demonstrated that associations between and neuroticism were distinct from those between and blood pressure/HbA1c. There was no evidence that the contactin genes contributed to shared aetiology between physical and mental illness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes11111326DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7697406PMC
November 2020

Genetic Variants Associated with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Do Not Associate with Measures of Sub-Clinical Atherosclerosis: Results from the IMPROVE Study.

Genes (Basel) 2020 10 22;11(11). Epub 2020 Oct 22.

Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Box 210, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular diseases (CVD) share common metabolic pathways. We explored the association between three NAFLD-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs738409, rs10401969, and rs1260326 with sub-clinical atherosclerosis estimated by the carotid intima-media thickness (c-IMT) and the inter-adventitia common carotid artery diameter (ICCAD) in patients free from clinically overt NAFLD and CVD. The study population is the IMPROVE, a multicenter European study ( = 3711). C-IMT measures and ICCAD were recorded using a standardized protocol. Linear regression with an additive genetic model was used to test for association of the three SNPs with c-IMT and ICCAD. In secondary analyses, the association of the three SNPs with c-IMT and ICCAD was tested after stratification by alanine aminotransferase levels (ALT). No associations were found between rs738409, rs1260326, rs10401969, and c-IMT or ICCAD. Rs738409-G and rs10401969-C were associated with ALT levels ( < 0.001). In patients with ALT levels above 28 U/L (highest quartile), we observed an association between rs10401969-C and c-IMT measures of c-IMT and c-IMT ( = 0.018 and 0.021, respectively). In conclusion, NAFLD-associated SNPs do not associate with sub-clinical atherosclerosis measures. However, our results suggest a possible mediating function of impaired liver function on atherosclerosis development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes11111243DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7690395PMC
October 2020

Sex-specific predictors of PCSK9 levels in a European population: The IMPROVE study.

Atherosclerosis 2020 09 30;309:39-46. Epub 2020 Jul 30.

Centro Cardiologico Monzino, IRCCS, Milan, Italy; Department of Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, Università Degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Background And Aims: Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) is one of the key regulators of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol plasma levels. Circulating PCSK9, which differs between genders, represents a valid pharmacological target for preventing cardiovascular (CV) events. We aimed to investigate sex-related associations between PCSK9 plasma levels and biochemical and anthropomorphic factors, and familial and personal morbidities, in a large European cohort (n = 3673) of men (47.9%) and women (52.1%).

Methods: Individuals (aged 54-79 years) free of CV diseases were enrolled in seven centers of five European countries: Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden. PCSK9 plasma levels were measured by ELISA.

Results: PCSK9 was higher in women than in men. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that latitude, sex, and treatments with statins and fibrates were the strongest predictors of PCSK9 in the whole group. These variables, together with triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, were also associated with PCSK9 in men or women. Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration and pack-years were PCSK9 independent predictors in women, whereas hypercholesterolemia and physical activity were independent predictors in men. The associations between PCSK9 and latitude, uric acid, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and physical activity were significantly different in men and women (p <0.05 for all).

Conclusions: Besides confirming the association with lipids in the whole group, our study revealed previously unknown differences in PCSK9 predictors in men and women. These might be taken into account when defining individual risk for CV events and/or for refining PCSK9 lowering treatments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2020.07.014DOI Listing
September 2020

Association of SBP and BMI with cognitive and structural brain phenotypes in UK Biobank.

J Hypertens 2020 12;38(12):2482-2489

Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

Objective: To test for associations between SBP and BMI, with domain-specific cognitive abilities and examine which brain structural phenotypes mediate those associations.

Methods: Using cross-sectional UK Biobank data (final N = 28 412), we examined SBP/BMI vs. cognitive test scores of pairs-matching, matrix completion, trail making test A/B, digit symbol substitution, verbal-numerical reasoning, tower rearranging and simple reaction time. We adjusted for potential confounders of age, sex, deprivation, medication, apolipoprotein e4 genotype, smoking, population stratification and genotypic array. We tested for mediation via multiple structural brain imaging phenotypes and corrected for multiple testing with false discovery rate.

Results: We found positive associations for higher BMI with worse reaction time, reasoning, tower rearranging and matrix completion tasks by 0.024-0.067 SDs per BMI SD (all P < 0.001). Higher SBP was associated with worse reasoning (0.034 SDs) and matrix completion scores (-0.024 SDs; both P < 0.001). Both BMI and SBP were associated with multiple brain structural metrics including total grey/white matter volumes, frontal lobe volumes, white matter tract integrity and white matter hyperintensity volumes: specific metrics mediated around one-third of the associations with cognition.

Conclusion: Our findings add to the body of evidence that addressing cardiovascular risk factors may also preserve cognitive function, via specific aspects of brain structure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000002579DOI Listing
December 2020

Genome-Wide Association Study of Diabetogenic Adipose Morphology in the GENetics of Adipocyte Lipolysis (GENiAL) Cohort.

Cells 2020 04 27;9(5). Epub 2020 Apr 27.

Lipid laboratory, Endocrinology Unit, Department of Medicine Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.

An increased adipocyte size relative to the size of fat depots, also denoted hypertrophic adipose morphology, is a strong risk factor for the future development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The regulation of adipose morphology is poorly understood We set out to identify genetic loci associated with adipose morphology and functionally evaluate candidate genes for impact on adipocyte development. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in the unique GENetics of Adipocyte Lipolysis (GENiAL) cohort comprising 948 participants who have undergone abdominal subcutaneous adipose biopsy with a determination of average adipose volume and morphology. The GWAS identified 31 genetic loci displaying suggestive association with adipose morphology. Functional evaluation of candidate genes by small interfering RNAs (siRNA)-mediated knockdown in adipose-derived precursor cells identified six genes controlling adipocyte renewal and differentiation, and thus of potential importance for adipose hypertrophy. In conclusion genetic and functional studies implicate a regulatory role for , ARHGEF10, , and in adipose morphology by their impact on adipogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9051085DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7291295PMC
April 2020

Alcohol consumption in relation to carotid subclinical atherosclerosis and its progression: results from a European longitudinal multicentre study.

Eur J Nutr 2021 Feb 24;60(1):123-134. Epub 2020 Mar 24.

Unit of Cardiovascular and Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 13, Box 210, 17177, Stockholm, Sweden.

Background/aim: The association between alcohol consumption and subclinical atherosclerosis is still unclear. Using data from a European multicentre study, we assess subclinical atherosclerosis and its 30-month progression by carotid intima-media thickness (C-IMT) measurements, and correlate this information with self-reported data on alcohol consumption.

Methods: Between 2002-2004, 1772 men and 1931 women aged 54-79 years with at least three risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) were recruited in Italy, France, Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland. Self-reported alcohol consumption, assessed at baseline, was categorized as follows: none (0 g/d), very-low (0 - 5 g/d), low (> 5 to  ≤ 10 g/d), moderate (> 10 to ≤ 20 g/d for women,  > 10 to ≤ 30 g/d for men) and high (> 20 g/d for women, > 30 g/d for men). C-IMT was measured in millimeters at baseline and after 30 months. Measurements consisted of the mean and maximum values of the common carotids (CC), internal carotid artery (ICA), and bifurcations (Bif) and whole carotid tree. We used quantile regression to describe the associations between C-IMT measures and alcohol consumption categories, adjusting for sex, age, physical activity, education, smoking, diet, and latitude.

Results: Adjusted differences between median C-IMT values in different levels of alcohol consumption (vs. very-low) showed that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower C-IMT[- 0.17(95%CI - 0.32; - 0.02)], and Bif-IMT[- 0.07(95%CI - 0.13; - 0.01)] at baseline and decreasing C-IMT[- 0.006 (95%CI - 0.011; - 0.000)], Bif-IMT[- 0.016(95%CI - 0.027; - 0.005)], ICA-IMT[- 0.009(95% - 0.016; - 0.002)] and ICA-IMT[- 0.016(95%: - 0.032; - 0.000)] after 30 months. There was no evidence of departure from linearity in the association between alcohol consumption and C-IMT.

Conclusion: In this European population at high risk of CVD, findings show an inverse relation between moderate alcohol consumption and carotid subclinical atherosclerosis and its 30-month progression, independently of several potential confounders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02220-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7867553PMC
February 2021

Genome-wide association study of adipocyte lipolysis in the GENetics of adipocyte lipolysis (GENiAL) cohort.

Mol Metab 2020 04 25;34:85-96. Epub 2020 Jan 25.

Lipid laboratory, Department of Medicine Huddinge, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Electronic address:

Objectives: Lipolysis, hydrolysis of triglycerides to fatty acids in adipocytes, is tightly regulated, poorly understood, and, if perturbed, can lead to metabolic diseases including obesity and type 2 diabetes. The goal of this study was to identify the genetic regulators of lipolysis and elucidate their molecular mechanisms.

Methods: Adipocytes from abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were isolated and were incubated without (spontaneous lipolysis) or with a catecholamine (stimulated lipolysis) to analyze lipolysis. DNA was extracted and genome-wide genotyping and imputation conducted. After quality control, 939 samples with genetic and lipolysis data were available. Genome-wide association studies of spontaneous and stimulated lipolysis were conducted. Subsequent in vitro gene expression analyses were used to identify candidate genes and explore their regulation of adipose tissue biology.

Results: One locus on chromosome 19 demonstrated genome-wide significance with spontaneous lipolysis. 60 loci showed suggestive associations with spontaneous or stimulated lipolysis, of which many influenced both traits. In the chromosome 19 locus, only HIF3A was expressed in the adipocytes and displayed genotype-dependent gene expression. HIF3A knockdown in vitro increased lipolysis and the expression of key lipolysis-regulating genes.

Conclusions: In conclusion, we identified a genetic regulator of spontaneous lipolysis and provided evidence of HIF3A as a novel key regulator of lipolysis in subcutaneous adipocytes as the mechanism through which the locus influences adipose tissue biology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2020.01.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7021539PMC
April 2020

Analysis of the genetic variants associated with circulating levels of sgp130. Results from the IMPROVE study.

Genes Immun 2020 02 14;21(2):100-108. Epub 2020 Jan 14.

Department of Medicine Solna, Cardiovascular Medicine Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

The genes regulating circulating levels of soluble gp130 (sgp130), the antagonist of the inflammatory response in atherosclerosis driven by interleukin 6, are largely unknown. Aims of the present study were to identify genetic loci associated with circulating sgp130 and to explore the potential association between variants associated with sgp130 and markers of subclinical atherosclerosis. The study is based on IMPROVE (n = 3703), a cardiovascular multicentre study designed to investigate the determinants of carotid intima media thickness, a measure of subclinical atherosclerosis. Genomic DNA was genotyped by the CardioMetaboChip and ImmunoChip. About 360,842 SNPs were tested for association with log-transformed sgp130, using linear regression adjusted for age, gender, and population stratification using PLINK v1.07. A p value of 1 × 10 was chosen as threshold for significance value. In an exploratory analysis, SNPs associated with sgp130 were tested for association with c-IMT measures. We identified two SNPs significantly associated with sgp130 levels and 24 showing suggestive association with sgp130 levels. One SNP (rs17688225) on chromosome 14 was positively associated with sgp130 serum levels (β = 0.03 SE = 0.007, p = 4.77 × 10) and inversely associated with c-IMT (c-IMT β = -0.001 SE = 0.005, p = 0.0342). Our data indicate that multiple loci regulate sgp130 levels and suggest a possible common pathway between sgp130 and c-IMT measures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41435-019-0090-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7182533PMC
February 2020

Carotid Intima-Media Thickness: Novel Loci, Sex-Specific Effects, and Genetic Correlations With Obesity and Glucometabolic Traits in UK Biobank.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2020 02 5;40(2):446-461. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

From the Institute of Health and Wellbeing (R.J.S., J.W., B.C., A.F., N.G., K.J.A.J., L.M.L., R.P., J.P., R.J.S., R.T., D.M.L., D.J.S.), University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Objective: Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most cardiovascular disease, but mechanisms underlying atherosclerosis are incompletely understood. Ultrasound measurement of the carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) can be used to measure vascular remodeling, which is indicative of atherosclerosis. Genome-wide association studies have identified many genetic loci associated with cIMT, but heterogeneity of measurements collected by many small cohorts have been a major limitation in these efforts. Here, we conducted genome-wide association analyses in UKB (UK Biobank; N=22 179), the largest single study with consistent cIMT measurements. Approach and Results: We used BOLT-LMM software to run linear regression of cIMT in UKB, adjusted for age, sex, and genotyping chip. In white British participants, we identified 5 novel loci associated with cIMT and replicated most previously reported loci. In the first sex-specific analyses of cIMT, we identified a locus on chromosome 5, associated with cIMT in women only and highlight as a good candidate gene at this locus. Genetic correlations with body mass index and glucometabolic traits were also observed. Two loci influenced risk of ischemic heart disease.

Conclusions: These findings replicate previously reported associations, highlight novel biology, and provide new directions for investigating the sex differences observed in cardiovascular disease presentation and progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.313226DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6975521PMC
February 2020

Novel genome-wide associations for anhedonia, genetic correlation with psychiatric disorders, and polygenic association with brain structure.

Transl Psychiatry 2019 12 4;9(1):327. Epub 2019 Dec 4.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Anhedonia is a core symptom of several psychiatric disorders but its biological underpinnings are poorly understood. We performed a genome-wide association study of state anhedonia in 375,275 UK Biobank participants and assessed for genetic correlation between anhedonia and neuropsychiatric conditions (major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and Parkinson's Disease). We then used a polygenic risk score approach to test for association between genetic loading for anhedonia and both brain structure and brain function. This included: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessments of total grey matter volume, white matter volume, cerebrospinal fluid volume, and 15 cortical/subcortical regions of interest; diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures of white matter tract integrity; and functional MRI activity during an emotion processing task. We identified 11 novel loci associated at genome-wide significance with anhedonia, with a SNP heritability estimate (hSNP) of 5.6%. Strong positive genetic correlations were found between anhedonia and major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; but not with obsessive compulsive disorder or Parkinson's Disease. Polygenic risk for anhedonia was associated with poorer brain white matter integrity, smaller total grey matter volume, and smaller volumes of brain regions linked to reward and pleasure processing, including orbito-frontal cortex. In summary, the identification of novel anhedonia-associated loci substantially expands our current understanding of the biological basis of state anhedonia and genetic correlations with several psychiatric disorders confirm the utility of this phenotype as a transdiagnostic marker of vulnerability to mental illness. We also provide the first evidence that genetic risk for state anhedonia influences brain structure, including in regions associated with reward and pleasure processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0635-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6892870PMC
December 2019

Identification of novel common variants associated with chronic pain using conditional false discovery rate analysis with major depressive disorder and assessment of pleiotropic effects of LRFN5.

Transl Psychiatry 2019 11 20;9(1):310. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

School of Life Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

Chronic pain is a complex trait that is moderately heritable and genetically, as well as phenotypically, correlated with major depressive disorder (MDD). Use of the conditional false discovery rate (cFDR) approach, which leverages pleiotropy identified from existing GWAS outputs, has been successful in discovering novel associated variants in related phenotypes. Here, genome-wide association study outputs for both von Korff chronic pain grade and for MDD were used to identify variants meeting a cFDR threshold for each outcome phenotype separately, as well as a conjunctional cFDR (ccFDR) threshold for both phenotypes together. Using a moderately conservative threshold, we identified a total of 11 novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), six of which were associated with chronic pain grade and nine of which were associated with MDD. Four SNPs on chromosome 14 were associated with both chronic pain grade and MDD. SNPs associated only with chronic pain grade were located within SLC16A7 on chromosome 12. SNPs associated only with MDD were located either in a gene-dense region on chromosome 1 harbouring LINC01360, LRRIQ3, FPGT and FPGT-TNNI3K, or within/close to LRFN5 on chromosome 14. The SNPs associated with both outcomes were also located within LRFN5. Several of the SNPs on chromosomes 1 and 14 were identified as being associated with expression levels of nearby genes in the brain and central nervous system. Overall, using the cFDR approach, we identified several novel genetic loci associated with chronic pain and we describe likely pleiotropic effects of a recently identified MDD locus on chronic pain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0613-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6868167PMC
November 2019

Associations of autozygosity with a broad range of human phenotypes.

Nat Commun 2019 10 31;10(1):4957. Epub 2019 Oct 31.

Department of Neurology, Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, 3584 CX, The Netherlands.

In many species, the offspring of related parents suffer reduced reproductive success, a phenomenon known as inbreeding depression. In humans, the importance of this effect has remained unclear, partly because reproduction between close relatives is both rare and frequently associated with confounding social factors. Here, using genomic inbreeding coefficients (F) for >1.4 million individuals, we show that F is significantly associated (p < 0.0005) with apparently deleterious changes in 32 out of 100 traits analysed. These changes are associated with runs of homozygosity (ROH), but not with common variant homozygosity, suggesting that genetic variants associated with inbreeding depression are predominantly rare. The effect on fertility is striking: F equivalent to the offspring of first cousins is associated with a 55% decrease [95% CI 44-66%] in the odds of having children. Finally, the effects of F are confirmed within full-sibling pairs, where the variation in F is independent of all environmental confounding.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12283-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6823371PMC
October 2019

Genome-wide Association Studies in Ancestrally Diverse Populations: Opportunities, Methods, Pitfalls, and Recommendations.

Cell 2019 10 10;179(3):589-603. Epub 2019 Oct 10.

Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA; Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA; Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have focused primarily on populations of European descent, but it is essential that diverse populations become better represented. Increasing diversity among study participants will advance our understanding of genetic architecture in all populations and ensure that genetic research is broadly applicable. To facilitate and promote research in multi-ancestry and admixed cohorts, we outline key methodological considerations and highlight opportunities, challenges, solutions, and areas in need of development. Despite the perception that analyzing genetic data from diverse populations is difficult, it is scientifically and ethically imperative, and there is an expanding analytical toolbox to do it well.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.08.051DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6939869PMC
October 2019

Genome-wide association study of multisite chronic pain in UK Biobank.

PLoS Genet 2019 06 13;15(6):e1008164. Epub 2019 Jun 13.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Chronic pain is highly prevalent worldwide and represents a significant socioeconomic and public health burden. Several aspects of chronic pain, for example back pain and a severity-related phenotype 'chronic pain grade', have been shown previously to be complex heritable traits with a polygenic component. Additional pain-related phenotypes capturing aspects of an individual's overall sensitivity to experiencing and reporting chronic pain have also been suggested as a focus for investigation. We made use of a measure of the number of sites of chronic pain in individuals within the UK general population. This measure, termed Multisite Chronic Pain (MCP), is a complex trait and its genetic architecture has not previously been investigated. To address this, we carried out a large-scale genome-wide association study (GWAS) of MCP in ~380,000 UK Biobank participants. Our findings were consistent with MCP having a significant polygenic component, with a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) heritability of 10.2%. In total 76 independent lead SNPs at 39 risk loci were associated with MCP. Additional gene-level association analyses identified neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, nervous system development, cell-cycle progression and apoptosis genes as enriched for genetic association with MCP. Genetic correlations were observed between MCP and a range of psychiatric, autoimmune and anthropometric traits, including major depressive disorder (MDD), asthma and Body Mass Index (BMI). Furthermore, in Mendelian randomisation (MR) analyses a causal effect of MCP on MDD was observed. Additionally, a polygenic risk score (PRS) for MCP was found to significantly predict chronic widespread pain (pain all over the body), indicating the existence of genetic variants contributing to both of these pain phenotypes. Overall, our findings support the proposition that chronic pain involves a strong nervous system component with implications for our understanding of the physiology of chronic pain. These discoveries may also inform the future development of novel treatment approaches.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1008164DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592570PMC
June 2019

The genomic basis of mood instability: identification of 46 loci in 363,705 UK Biobank participants, genetic correlation with psychiatric disorders, and association with gene expression and function.

Mol Psychiatry 2020 11 5;25(11):3091-3099. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of psychiatric phenotypes have tended to focus on categorical diagnoses, but to understand the biology of mental illness it may be more useful to study traits which cut across traditional boundaries. Here, we report the results of a GWAS of mood instability as a trait in a large population cohort (UK Biobank, n = 363,705). We also assess the clinical and biological relevance of the findings, including whether genetic associations show enrichment for nervous system pathways. Forty six unique loci associated with mood instability were identified with a SNP heritability estimate of 9%. Linkage Disequilibrium Score Regression (LDSR) analyses identified genetic correlations with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder (BD), Schizophrenia, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Gene-level and gene set analyses identified 244 significant genes and 6 enriched gene sets. Tissue expression analysis of the SNP-level data found enrichment in multiple brain regions, and eQTL analyses highlighted an inversion on chromosome 17 plus two brain-specific eQTLs. In addition, we used a Phenotype Linkage Network (PLN) analysis and community analysis to assess for enrichment of nervous system gene sets using mouse orthologue databases. The PLN analysis found enrichment in nervous system PLNs for a community containing serotonin and melatonin receptors. In summary, this work has identified novel loci, tissues and gene sets contributing to mood instability. These findings may be relevant for the identification of novel trans-diagnostic drug targets and could help to inform future stratified medicine innovations in mental health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41380-019-0439-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7116257PMC
November 2020
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