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Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly heritable mood disorder with complex genetic architecture and poorly understood etiology. Previous transcriptomic BD studies have had inconsistent findings due to issues such as small sample sizes and difficulty in adequately accounting for confounders like medication use.
We performed a differential expression analysis in a well-characterized BD case-control sample (Nsubjects = 480) by RNA sequencing of whole blood. We further performed co-expression network analysis, functional enrichment, and cell type decomposition, and integrated differentially expressed genes with genetic risk.
While we observed widespread differential gene expression patterns between affected and unaffected individuals, these effects were largely linked to lithium treatment at the time of blood draw (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 976) rather than BD diagnosis itself (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 6). These lithium-associated genes were enriched for cell signaling and immune response functional annotations, among others, and were associated with neutrophil cell-type proportions, which were elevated in lithium users. Neither genes with altered expression in cases nor in lithium users were enriched for BD, schizophrenia, and depression genetic risk based on information from genome-wide association studies, nor was gene expression associated with polygenic risk scores for BD.
These findings suggest that BD is associated with minimal changes in whole blood gene expression independent of medication use but emphasize the importance of accounting for medication use and cell type heterogeneity in psychiatric transcriptomic studies. The results of this study add to mounting evidence of lithium's cell signaling and immune-related mechanisms.
In a large and comprehensively assessed sample of patients with bipolar disorder type I (BDI), we investigated the prevalence of psychotic features and their relationship with life course, demographic, clinical, and cognitive characteristics. We hypothesized that groups of psychotic symptoms (Schneiderian, mood incongruent, thought disorder, delusions, and hallucinations) have distinct relations to risk factors.
In a cross-sectional study of 1342 BDI patients, comprehensive demographical and clinical characteristics were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-I) interview. In addition, levels of childhood maltreatment and intelligence quotient (IQ) were assessed. The relationships between these characteristics and psychotic symptoms were analyzed using multiple general linear models.
A lifetime history of psychotic symptoms was present in 73.8% of BDI patients and included delusions in 68.9% of patients and hallucinations in 42.6%. Patients with psychotic symptoms showed a significant younger age of disease onset (β = −0.09, t = −3.38, p = 0.001) and a higher number of hospitalizations for manic episodes (F11 338 = 56.53, p < 0.001). Total IQ was comparable between groups. Patients with hallucinations had significant higher levels of childhood maltreatment (β = 0.09, t = 3.04, p = 0.002).
In this large cohort of BDI patients, the vast majority of patients had experienced psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms in BDI were associated with an earlier disease onset and more frequent hospitalizations particularly for manic episodes. The study emphasizes the strength of the relation between childhood maltreatment and hallucinations but did not identify distinct subgroups based on psychotic features and instead reported of a large heterogeneity of psychotic symptoms in BD.
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