Smoller Lab at PNGU


Massively expedited genome-wide heritability analysis (MEGHA)

Ge T, Nichols TE, Lee PH, Holmes AJ, Roffman JL, Buckner RL, et al. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1415603112

The discovery and prioritization of heritable phenotypes is a computational challenge in a variety of settings, including neuroimaging genetics and analyses of the vast phenotypic repositories in electronic health record systems and population-based biobanks. Classical estimates of heritability require twin or pedigree data, which can be costly and difficult to acquire. Genome-wide complex trait analysis is an alternative tool to compute heritability estimates from unrelated individuals, using genome-wide data that are increasingly ubiquitous, but is computationally demanding and becomes difficult to apply in evaluating very large numbers of phenotypes. Here we present a fast and accurate statistical method for high-dimensional heritability analysis using genome-wide SNP data from unrelated individuals, termed massively expedited genome-wide heritability analysis (MEGHA) and accompanying nonparametric sampling techniques that enable flexible inferences for arbitrary statistics of interest. MEGHA produces estimates and significance measures of heritability with several orders of magnitude less computational time than existing methods, making heritability-based prioritization of millions of phenotypes based on data from unrelated individuals tractable for the first time to our knowledge. As a demonstration of application, we conducted heritability analyses on global and local morphometric measurements derived from brain structural MRI scans, using genome-wide SNP data from 1,320 unrelated young healthy adults of non-Hispanic European ancestry. We also computed surface maps of heritability for cortical thickness measures and empirically localized cortical regions where thickness measures were significantly heritable. Our analyses demonstrate the unique capability of MEGHA for large-scale heritability-based screening and high-dimensional heritability profile construction.

Genome-wide association study identifies SESTD1 as a novel risk gene for lithium-responsive bipolar disorder

Song J, Bergen SE, Di Florio A, Karlsson R, Charney A, Ruderfer DM, et al. - Molecular Psychiatry. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.165

Lithium is the mainstay prophylactic treatment for bipolar disorder (BD), but treatment response varies considerably across individuals. Patients who respond well to lithium treatment might represent a relatively homogeneous subtype of this genetically and phenotypically diverse disorder. Here, we performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify (i) specific genetic variations influencing lithium response and (ii) genetic variants associated with risk for lithium-responsive BD. Patients with BD and controls were recruited from Sweden and the United Kingdom. GWAS were performed on 2698 patients with subjectively defined (self-reported) lithium response and 1176 patients with objectively defined (clinically documented) lithium response. We next conducted GWAS comparing lithium responders with healthy controls (1639 subjective responders and 8899 controls; 323 objective responders and 6684 controls). Meta-analyses of Swedish and UK results revealed no significant associations with lithium response within the bipolar subjects. However, when comparing lithium-responsive patients with controls, two imputed markers attained genome-wide significant associations, among which one was validated in confirmatory genotyping (rs116323614, P=2.74 × 10(-8)). It is an intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on chromosome 2q31.2 in the gene SEC14 and spectrin domains 1 (SESTD1), which encodes a protein involved in regulation of phospholipids. Phospholipids have been strongly implicated as lithium treatment targets. Furthermore, we estimated the proportion of variance for lithium-responsive BD explained by common variants ('SNP heritability') as 0.25 and 0.29 using two definitions of lithium response. Our results revealed a genetic variant in SESTD1 associated with risk for lithium-responsive BD, suggesting that the understanding of BD etiology could be furthered by focusing on this subtype of BD.

The Genetics of Stress-Related Disorders: PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety Disorders

Smoller JW - Neuropsychopharmacology. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.266

Research into the causes of psychopathology has largely focused on two broad etiologic factors: genetic vulnerability and environmental stressors. An important role for familial/heritable factors in the etiology of a broad range of psychiatric disorders was established well before the modern era of genomic research. This review focuses on the genetic basis of three disorder categories-posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), and the anxiety disorders-for which environmental stressors and stress responses are understood to be central to pathogenesis. Each of these disorders aggregates in families and is moderately heritable. More recently, molecular genetic approaches, including genome-wide studies of genetic variation, have been applied to identify specific risk variants. In this review, I summarize evidence for genetic contributions to PTSD, MDD, and the anxiety disorders including genetic epidemiology, the role of common genetic variation, the role of rare and structural variation, and the role of gene-environment interaction. Available data suggest that stress-related disorders are highly complex and polygenic and, despite substantial progress in other areas of psychiatric genetics, few risk loci have been identified for these disorders. Progress in this area will likely require analysis of much larger sample sizes than have been reported to date. The phenotypic complexity and genetic overlap among these disorders present further challenges. The review concludes with a discussion of prospects for clinical translation of genetic findings and future directions for research.

Brain Genomics Superstruct Project initial data release with structural, functional, and behavioral measures

Holmes AJ, Hollinshead MO, O'Keefe TM, Petrov VI, Fariello GR, Wald LL, et al. - Scientific Data. doi: 10.1038/sdata.2015.31

The goal of the Brain Genomics Superstruct Project (GSP) is to enable large-scale exploration of the links between brain function, behavior, and ultimately genetic variation. To provide the broader scientific community data to probe these associations, a repository of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans linked to genetic information was constructed from a sample of healthy individuals. The initial release, detailed in the present manuscript, encompasses quality screened cross-sectional data from 1,570 participants ages 18 to 35 years who were scanned with MRI and completed demographic and health questionnaires. Personality and cognitive measures were obtained on a subset of participants. Each dataset contains a T1-weighted structural MRI scan and either one (n=1,570) or two (n=1,139) resting state functional MRI scans. Test-retest reliability datasets are included from 69 participants scanned within six months of their initial visit. For the majority of participants self-report behavioral and cognitive measures are included (n=926 and n=892 respectively). Analyses of data quality, structure, function, personality, and cognition are presented to demonstrate the dataset's utility.

Childhood Adversity Is Associated with Adult Theory of Mind and Social Affiliation, but Not Face Processing

Germine L, Dunn EC, McLaughlin KA, Smoller JW - Public Library of Science One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129612

People vary substantially in their ability to acquire and maintain social ties. Here, we use a combined epidemiological and individual differences approach to understand the childhood roots of adult social cognitive functioning. We assessed exposure to 25 forms of traumatic childhood experiences in over 5000 adults, along with measures of face discrimination, face memory, theory of mind, social motivation, and social support. Retrospectively-reported experiences of parental maltreatment in childhood (particularly physical abuse) were the most broadly and robustly associated with adult variations in theory of mind, social motivation, and social support. Adult variations in face discrimination and face memory, on the other hand, were not significantly associated with exposure to childhood adversity. Our findings indicate domains of social cognition that may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of adverse childhood environments, and suggest mechanisms whereby environmental factors might influence the development of social abilities.

The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Workgroup: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Enters the Age of Large-Scale Genomic Collaboration

Logue MW, Amstadter AB, Baker DG, Duncan L, Koenen KC, Liberzon I, et al. - Neuropsychopharmacology. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.118

The development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is influenced by genetic factors. Although there have been some replicated candidates, the identification of risk variants for PTSD has lagged behind genetic research of other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder. Psychiatric genetics has moved beyond examination of specific candidate genes in favor of the genome-wide association study (GWAS) strategy of very large numbers of samples, which allows for the discovery of previously unsuspected genes and molecular pathways. The successes of genetic studies of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have been aided by the formation of a large-scale GWAS consortium: the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC). In contrast, only a handful of GWAS of PTSD have appeared in the literature to date. Here we describe the formation of a group dedicated to large-scale study of PTSD genetics: the PGC-PTSD. The PGC-PTSD faces challenges related to the contingency on trauma exposure and the large degree of ancestral genetic diversity within and across participating studies. Using the PGC analysis pipeline supplemented by analyses tailored to address these challenges, we anticipate that our first large-scale GWAS of PTSD will comprise over 10 000 cases and 30 000 trauma-exposed controls. Following in the footsteps of our PGC forerunners, this collaboration-of a scope that is unprecedented in the field of traumatic stress-will lead the search for replicable genetic associations and new insights into the biological underpinnings of PTSD.

Validation of electronic health record phenotyping of bipolar disorder cases and controls

Castro VM, Minnier J, Murphy SN, Kohane I, Churchill SE, Gainer V, et al. - American Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14030423

OBJECTIVE: The study was designed to validate use of electronic health records (EHRs) for diagnosing bipolar disorder and classifying control subjects.

METHOD: EHR data were obtained from a health care system of more than 4.6 million patients spanning more than 20 years. Experienced clinicians reviewed charts to identify text features and coded data consistent or inconsistent with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Natural language processing was used to train a diagnostic algorithm with 95% specificity for classifying bipolar disorder. Filtered coded data were used to derive three additional classification rules for case subjects and one for control subjects. The positive predictive value (PPV) of EHR-based bipolar disorder and subphenotype diagnoses was calculated against diagnoses from direct semistructured interviews of 190 patients by trained clinicians blind to EHR diagnosis.

RESULTS: The PPV of bipolar disorder defined by natural language processing was 0.85. Coded classification based on strict filtering achieved a value of 0.79, but classifications based on less stringent criteria performed less well. No EHR-classified control subject received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder on the basis of direct interview (PPV=1.0). For most subphenotypes, values exceeded 0.80. The EHR-based classifications were used to accrue 4,500 bipolar disorder cases and 5,000 controls for genetic analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: Semiautomated mining of EHRs can be used to ascertain bipolar disorder patients and control subjects with high specificity and predictive value compared with diagnostic interviews. EHRs provide a powerful resource for high-throughput phenotyping for genetic and clinical research.

Joint analysis of psychiatric disorders increases accuracy of risk prediction for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder

Maier R, Moser G, Chen GB, Ripke S; Cross-Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Coryell W, et al. - American Journal of Human Genetics. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.12.006

Genetic risk prediction has several potential applications in medical research and clinical practice and could be used, for example, to stratify a heterogeneous population of patients by their predicted genetic risk. However, for polygenic traits, such as psychiatric disorders, the accuracy of risk prediction is low. Here we use a multivariate linear mixed model and apply multi-trait genomic best linear unbiased prediction for genetic risk prediction. This method exploits correlations between disorders and simultaneously evaluates individual risk for each disorder. We show that the multivariate approach significantly increases the prediction accuracy for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder in the discovery as well as in independent validation datasets. By grouping SNPs based on genome annotation and fitting multiple random effects, we show that the prediction accuracy could be further improved. The gain in prediction accuracy of the multivariate approach is equivalent to an increase in sample size of 34% for schizophrenia, 68% for bipolar disorder, and 76% for major depressive disorders using single trait models. Because our approach can be readily applied to any number of GWAS datasets of correlated traits, it is a flexible and powerful tool to maximize prediction accuracy. With current sample size, risk predictors are not useful in a clinical setting but already are a valuable research tool, for example in experimental designs comparing cases with high and low polygenic risk.

Common genetic variants influence human subcortical brain structures

Hibar DP, Stein JL, Renteria ME, Arias-Vasquez A, Desrivières S, Jahanshad N, et al. - Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature14101

The highly complex structure of the human brain is strongly shaped by genetic influences. Subcortical brain regions form circuits with cortical areas to coordinate movement, learning, memory and motivation, and altered circuits can lead to abnormal behaviour and disease. To investigate how common genetic variants affect the structure of these brain regions, here we conduct genome-wide association studies of the volumes of seven subcortical regions and the intracranial volume derived from magnetic resonance images of 30,717 individuals from 50 cohorts. We identify five novel genetic variants influencing the volumes of the putamen and caudate nucleus. We also find stronger evidence for three loci with previously established influences on hippocampal volume and intracranial volume. These variants show specific volumetric effects on brain structures rather than global effects across structures. The strongest effects were found for the putamen, where a novel intergenic locus with replicable influence on volume (rs945270; P = 1.08 × 10(-33); 0.52% variance explained) showed evidence of altering the expression of the KTN1 gene in both brain and blood tissue. Variants influencing putamen volume clustered near developmental genes that regulate apoptosis, axon guidance and vesicle transport. Identification of these genetic variants provides insight into the causes of variability in human brain development, and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.

Genetic determinants of depression: recent findings and future directions

Dunn EC, Brown RC, Dai Y, Rosand J, Nugent NR, Amstadter AB, et al. - Harvard Review Psychiatry. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000054

After participating in this activity, learners should be better able to: 1. Evaluate current evidence regarding the genetic determinants of depression 2. Assess findings from studies of gene-environment interaction 3. Identify challenges to gene discovery in depression Depression is one of the most prevalent, disabling, and costly mental health conditions in the United States and also worldwide. One promising avenue for preventing depression and informing its clinical treatment lies in uncovering the genetic and environmental determinants of the disorder as well as their interaction (G × E). The overarching goal of this review article is to translate recent findings from studies of genetic association and G × E related to depression, particularly for readers without in-depth knowledge of genetics or genetic methods. The review is organized into three major sections. In the first, we summarize what is currently known about the genetic determinants of depression, focusing on findings from genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In the second section, we review findings from studies of G × E, which seek to simultaneously examine the role of genes and exposure to specific environments or experiences in the etiology of depression. In the third section, we describe the challenges to genetic discovery in depression and promising strategies for future progress.

Cohort of birth modifies the association between FTO genotype and BMI

Rosenquist JN, Lehrer SF, O'Malley AJ, Zaslavsky AM, Smoller JW, Christakis NA - Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411893111

A substantial body of research has explored the relative roles of genetic and environmental factors on phenotype expression in humans. Recent research has also sought to identify gene-environment (or g-by-e) interactions, with mixed success. One potential reason for these mixed results may relate to the fact that genetic effects might be modified by changes in the environment over time. For example, the noted rise of obesity in the United States in the latter part of the 20th century might reflect an interaction between genetic variation and changing environmental conditions that together affect the penetrance of genetic influences. To evaluate this hypothesis, we use longitudinal data from the Framingham Heart Study collected over 30 y from a geographically relatively localized sample to test whether the well-documented association between the rs993609 variant of the FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene and body mass index (BMI) varies across birth cohorts, time period, and the lifecycle. Such cohort and period effects integrate many potential environmental factors, and this gene-by-environment analysis examines interactions with both time-varying contemporaneous and historical environmental influences. Using constrained linear age-period-cohort models that include family controls, we find that there is a robust relationship between birth cohort and the genotype-phenotype correlation between the FTO risk allele and BMI, with an observed inflection point for those born after 1942. These results suggest genetic influences on complex traits like obesity can vary over time, presumably because of global environmental changes that modify allelic penetrance.


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