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Genetic Identification of Cell Types Underlying Brain Complex Traits Yields Novel Insights Into the Etiology of Parkinson’s Disease

By Julien Bryois, Nathan G. Skene, Thomas F. Hansen, Lisette Kogelman, Hunna J. Watson, Zijing Liu, Eating Disorders Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, International Headache Genetics Consortium, 23andMe Research Team, Leo Brueggeman, Gerome Breen, Cynthia M Bulik, Ernest Arenas, Jens Hjerling-Leffler, Patrick F Sullivan

Posted 23 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/528463 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41588-020-0610-9)

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have discovered hundreds of loci associated with complex brain disorders, and provide the best current insights into the etiology of these idiopathic traits. However, it remains unclear in which cell types these variants are active, which is essential for understanding etiology and subsequent experimental modeling. Here we integrate GWAS results with single-cell transcriptomic data from the entire mouse nervous system to systematically identify cell types underlying psychiatric disorders, neurological diseases, and brain complex traits. We show that psychiatric disorders are predominantly associated with cortical and hippocampal excitatory neurons, as well as medium spiny neurons from the striatum. Cognitive traits were generally associated with similar cell types but their associations were driven by different genes. Neurological diseases were associated with different cell types, which is consistent with other lines of evidence. Notably, we found that Parkinson’s disease is not only genetically associated with cholinergic and monoaminergic neurons (which include dopaminergic neurons from the substantia nigra) but also with neurons from the enteric system and oligodendrocytes. Using post-mortem brain transcriptomic data, we confirmed alterations in these cells, even at the earliest stages of disease progression. Our study provides an important framework for understanding the cellular basis of complex brain maladies, and reveals an unexpected role of oligodendrocytes in Parkinson’s disease.

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