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Shared molecular neuropathology across major psychiatric disorders parallels polygenic overlap

By Michael Gandal, Jillian R. Haney, Neelroop N Parikshak, Virpi Leppa, Steve Horvath, Geschwind H. Daniel

Posted 18 Feb 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/040022 (published DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6469)

Recent large-scale studies have identified multiple genetic risk factors for mental illness and indicate a complex, polygenic, and pleiotropic genetic architecture for neuropsychiatric disease. However, little is known about how genetic variants yield brain dysfunction or pathology. We use transcriptomic profiling as an unbiased, quantitative readout of molecular phenotypes across 5 major psychiatric disorders, including autism (ASD), schizophrenia (SCZ), bipolar disorder (BD), depression (MDD), and alcoholism (AAD), compared with carefully matched controls. We identify a clear pattern of shared and distinct gene-expression perturbations across these conditions, identifying neuronal gene co-expression modules downregulated across ASD, SCZ, and BD, and astrocyte related modules most prominently upregulated in ASD and SCZ. Remarkably, the degree of sharing of transcriptional dysregulation was strongly related to polygenic (SNP-based) overlap across disorders, indicating a significant genetic component. These findings provide a systems-level view of the neurobiological architecture of major neuropsychiatric illness and demonstrate pathways of molecular convergence and specificity.

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