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Despite established clinical associations among major depression (MD), alcohol dependence (AD), and alcohol consumption (AC), the nature of the causal relationship between them is not completely understood. We leveraged genome-wide data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) and UK Biobank to test for the presence of shared genetic mechanisms and causal relationships among MD, AD, and AC.
Linkage disequilibrium score regression and Mendelian randomization (MR) were performed using genome-wide data from the PGC (MD: 135 458 cases and 344 901 controls; AD: 10 206 cases and 28 480 controls) and UK Biobank (AC-frequency: 438 308 individuals; AC-quantity: 307 098 individuals).
Positive genetic correlation was observed between MD and AD (rgMD−AD = + 0.47, P = 6.6 × 10−10). AC-quantity showed positive genetic correlation with both AD (rgAD−AC quantity = + 0.75, P = 1.8 × 10−14) and MD (rgMD−AC quantity = + 0.14, P = 2.9 × 10−7), while there was negative correlation of AC-frequency with MD (rgMD−AC frequency = −0.17, P = 1.5 × 10−10) and a non-significant result with AD. MR analyses confirmed the presence of pleiotropy among these four traits. However, the MD-AD results reflect a mediated-pleiotropy mechanism (i.e. causal relationship) with an effect of MD on AD (beta = 0.28, P = 1.29 × 10−6). There was no evidence for reverse causation.
This study supports a causal role for genetic liability of MD on AD based on genetic datasets including thousands of individuals. Understanding mechanisms underlying MD-AD comorbidity addresses important public health concerns and has the potential to facilitate prevention and intervention efforts.
Most studies underline the contribution of heritable factors for psychiatric disorders. However, heritability estimates depend on the population under study, diagnostic instruments, and study designs that each has its inherent assumptions, strengths, and biases. We aim to test the homogeneity in heritability estimates between two powerful, and state of the art study designs for eight psychiatric disorders.
We assessed heritability based on data of Swedish siblings (N = 4 408 646 full and maternal half-siblings), and based on summary data of eight samples with measured genotypes (N = 125 533 cases and 208 215 controls). All data were based on standard diagnostic criteria. Eight psychiatric disorders were studied: (1) alcohol dependence (AD), (2) anorexia nervosa, (3) attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (4) autism spectrum disorder, (5) bipolar disorder, (6) major depressive disorder, (7) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and (8) schizophrenia.
Heritability estimates from sibling data varied from 0.30 for Major Depression to 0.80 for ADHD. The estimates based on the measured genotypes were lower, ranging from 0.10 for AD to 0.28 for OCD, but were significant, and correlated positively (0.19) with national sibling-based estimates. When removing OCD from the data the correlation increased to 0.50.
Given the unique character of each study design, the convergent findings for these eight psychiatric conditions suggest that heritability estimates are robust across different methods. The findings also highlight large differences in genetic and environmental influences between psychiatric disorders, providing future directions for etiological psychiatric research.