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Schizophrenia spectrum disorders are among the most debilitating mental disorders and has complex pathophysiological underpinnings. There is growing evidence that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can play a role in its pathogenesis. The present study investigated the longitudinal variation of serum BDNF levels in a 24-month observational prospective cohort study of Sardinian psychotic patients and its relationship with psychopathological and cognitive changes. Furthermore, we examined whether genetic variation within the BDNF gene could moderate these relationships.
Every 6 months, 105 patients were assessed for their BDNF serum levels, as well as for a series of psychopathological, cognitive, and social measures. We performed a targeted analysis of four tag single nucleotide polymorphisms within the BDNF gene that were selected and analyzed using polymerase chain reaction. Longitudinal data were analyzed using mixed-effects linear regression models.
We observed a declining longitudinal trajectory of BDNF levels in psychotic patients in general, and in relation to the severity of depressive and negative symptoms. BDNF serum levels also declined in patients scoring lower in cognitive measures such as attention and speed of information processing and verbal fluency. The rs7934165 polymorphism moderated the significant association between verbal fluency and BDNF levels.
These findings in patients from real-world settings suggest a plausible role of peripheral BDNF levels as a marker of illness burden in schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
Studying phenotypic and genetic characteristics of age at onset (AAO) and polarity at onset (PAO) in bipolar disorder can provide new insights into disease pathology and facilitate the development of screening tools.
To examine the genetic architecture of AAO and PAO and their association with bipolar disorder disease characteristics.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) and polygenic score (PGS) analyses of AAO (n = 12 977) and PAO (n = 6773) were conducted in patients with bipolar disorder from 34 cohorts and a replication sample (n = 2237). The association of onset with disease characteristics was investigated in two of these cohorts.
Earlier AAO was associated with a higher probability of psychotic symptoms, suicidality, lower educational attainment, not living together and fewer episodes. Depressive onset correlated with suicidality and manic onset correlated with delusions and manic episodes. Systematic differences in AAO between cohorts and continents of origin were observed. This was also reflected in single-nucleotide variant-based heritability estimates, with higher heritabilities for stricter onset definitions. Increased PGS for autism spectrum disorder (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), major depression (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), schizophrenia (β = −0.39 years, s.e. = 0.08), and educational attainment (β = −0.31 years, s.e. = 0.08) were associated with an earlier AAO. The AAO GWAS identified one significant locus, but this finding did not replicate. Neither GWAS nor PGS analyses yielded significant associations with PAO.
AAO and PAO are associated with indicators of bipolar disorder severity. Individuals with an earlier onset show an increased polygenic liability for a broad spectrum of psychiatric traits. Systematic differences in AAO across cohorts, continents and phenotype definitions introduce significant heterogeneity, affecting analyses.
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