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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.
Prior research has documented shared heritable contributions to non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal ideation (SI) as well as NSSI and suicide attempt (SA). In addition, trauma exposure has been implicated in risk for NSSI and suicide. Genetically informative studies are needed to determine common sources of liability to all three self-injurious thoughts and behaviors, and to clarify the nature of their associations with traumatic experiences.
Multivariate biometric modeling was conducted using data from 9526 twins [59% female, mean age = 31.7 years (range 24–42)] from two cohorts of the Australian Twin Registry, some of whom also participated in the Childhood Trauma Study and the Nicotine Addiction Genetics Project.
The prevalences of high-risk trauma exposure (HRT), NSSI, SI, and SA were 24.4, 5.6, 27.1, and 4.6%, respectively. All phenotypes were moderately to highly correlated. Genetic influences on self-injurious thoughts and behaviors and HRT were significant and highly correlated among men [rG = 0.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.37–0.81)] and women [rG = 0.56 (0.49–0.63)]. Unique environmental influences were modestly correlated in women [rE = 0.23 (0.01–0.45)], suggesting that high-risk trauma may confer some direct risk for self-injurious thoughts and behaviors among females.
Individuals engaging in NSSI are at increased risk for suicide, and common heritable factors contribute to these associations. Preventing trauma exposure may help to mitigate risk for self-harm and suicide, either directly or indirectly via reductions in liability to psychopathology more broadly. In addition, targeting pre-existing vulnerability factors could significantly reduce risk for life-threatening behaviors among those who have experienced trauma.
The genetic component of Cannabis Use Disorder may overlap with influences acting more generally on early stages of cannabis use. This paper aims to determine the extent to which genetic influences on the development of cannabis abuse/dependence are correlated with those acting on the opportunity to use cannabis and frequency of use.
A cross-sectional study of 3303 Australian twins, measuring age of onset of cannabis use opportunity, lifetime frequency of cannabis use, and lifetime DSM-IV cannabis abuse/dependence. A trivariate Cholesky decomposition estimated additive genetic (A), shared environment (C) and unique environment (E) contributions to the opportunity to use cannabis, the frequency of cannabis use, cannabis abuse/dependence, and the extent of overlap between genetic and environmental factors associated with each phenotype.
Variance components estimates were A = 0.64 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58–0.70] and E = 0.36 (95% CI 0.29–0.42) for age of opportunity to use cannabis, A = 0.74 (95% CI 0.66–0.80) and E = 0.26 (95% CI 0.20–0.34) for cannabis use frequency, and A = 0.78 (95% CI 0.65–0.88) and E = 0.22 (95% CI 0.12–0.35) for cannabis abuse/dependence. Opportunity shares 45% of genetic influences with the frequency of use, and only 17% of additive genetic influences are unique to abuse/dependence from those acting on opportunity and frequency.
There are significant genetic contributions to lifetime cannabis abuse/dependence, but a large proportion of this overlaps with influences acting on opportunity and frequency of use. Individuals without drug use opportunity are uninformative, and studies of drug use disorders must incorporate individual exposure to accurately identify aetiology.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
It is unknown whether there are racial differences in the heritability of major depressive disorder (MDD) because most psychiatric genetic studies have been conducted in samples comprised largely of white non-Hispanics. To examine potential differences between African-American (AA) and European-American (EA) young adult women in (1) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) MDD prevalence, symptomatology, and risk factors, and (2) genetic and/or environmental liability to MDD, we analyzed data from a large population-representative sample of twins ascertained from birth records (n = 550 AA and n = 3226 EA female twins) aged 18–28 years at the time of MDD assessment by semi-structured psychiatric interview. AA women were more likely to have MDD risk factors; however, there were no significant differences in lifetime MDD prevalence between AA and EA women after adjusting for covariates (odds ratio = 0.88, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.67–1.15). Most MDD risk factors identified among AA women were also associated with MDD at similar magnitudes among EA women. Although the MDD heritability point estimate was higher among AA women than EA women in a model with paths estimated separately by race (56%, 95% CI: 29–78% vs. 41%, 95% CI: 29–52%), the best fitting model was one in which additive genetic and non-shared environmental paths for AA and EA women were constrained to be equal (A = 43%, 33–53% and E = 57%, 47–67%). In spite of a marked elevation in the prevalence of environmental risk exposures related to MDD among AA women, there were no significant differences in lifetime prevalence or heritability of MDD between AA and EA young women.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug throughout the developed world and there is consistent evidence of heritable influences on multiple stages of cannabis involvement including initiation of use and abuse/dependence. In this paper, we describe the methodology and preliminary results of a large-scale interview study of 3,824 young adult twins (born 1972–1979) and their siblings. Cannabis use was common with 75.2% of males and 64.7% of females reporting some lifetime use of cannabis while 24.5% of males and 11.8% of females reported meeting criteria for DSM-IV cannabis abuse or dependence. Rates of other drug use disorders and common psychiatric conditions were highly correlated with extent of cannabis involvement and there was consistent evidence of heritable influences across a range of cannabis phenotypes including early (≤15 years) opportunity to use (h2 = 72%), early (≤16 years) onset use (h2 = 80%), using cannabis 11+ times lifetime (h2 = 76%), and DSM abuse/dependence (h2 = 72%). Early age of onset of cannabis use was strongly associated with increased rates of subsequent use of other illicit drugs and with illicit drug abuse/dependence; further analyses indicating that some component of this association may have been mediated by increasing exposure to and opportunity to use other illicit drugs.
Questionnaire surveys, while more economical, typically achieve poorer response rates than interview surveys. We used data from a national volunteer cohort of young adult twins, who were scheduled for assessment by questionnaire in 1989 and by interview in 1996-2000, to identify predictors of questionnaire non-response. Out of a total of 8536 twins, 5058 completed the questionnaire survey (59% response rate), and 6255 completed a telephone interview survey conducted a decade later (73% response rate). Multinomial logit models were fitted to the interview data to identify socioeconomic, psychiatric and health behavior correlates of non-response in the earlier questionnaire survey. Male gender, education below University level, and being a dizygotic rather than monozygotic twin, all predicted reduced likelihood of participating in the questionnaire survey. Associations between questionnaire response status and psychiatric history and health behavior variables were modest, with history of alcohol dependence and childhood conduct disorder predicting decreased probability of returning a questionnaire, and history of smoking and heavy drinking more weakly associated with non-response. Body-mass index showed no association with questionnaire non-response. Despite a poor response rate to the self-report questionnaire survey, we found only limited sampling biases for most variables. While not appropriate for studies where socioeconomic variables are critical, it appears that survey by questionnaire, with questionnaire administration by telephone to non-responders, will represent a viable strategy for gene-mapping studies requiring that large numbers of relatives be screened.
Individuals who experience one type of trauma often experience other types, yet few studies have examined the clustering of trauma. This study examines the clustering of traumatic events and associations of trauma with risk for single and co-occurring major depressive disorder (MDD) and panic attack for 20 years after first trauma. Lifetime histories of MDD, panic attack, and traumatic events were obtained from participants in an Australian twin sample. Latent class analysis was used to derive trauma classes based on each respondent's trauma history. Associations of the resulting classes and of parental alcohol problems and familial effects with risk for a first onset of single and co-occurring MDD and panic attack were examined from the year of first trauma to 20 years later. Traumatic events clustered into three distinct classes characterized by endorsement of little or no trauma, primarily nonassaultive, and primarily assaultive events. Individuals in the assaultive class were characterized by a younger age at first trauma, a greater number of traumatic events, and high rates of parental alcohol problems. Members of the assaultive trauma class had the strongest and most enduring risk for single and co-occurring lifetime MDD and panic attack. Assaultive trauma outweighed associations of familial effects and nonassaultive trauma with risk for 10 years following first trauma.
Female twin pairs were identified from birth records, and their families invited to participate in a prospective study of the determinants of alcohol problems in women. We investigated sampling biases arising because of failure to locate families, or non-cooperation of families. Out of 2644 families with a live-born pair (born between July 1975 and December 1986) who survived beyond infancy, contact was established and a brief screening interview completed with 90% (N = 2380). Fewer than 6% of located families declined to participate in the initial screening interview. Predictors of failure to locate a family or to obtain a screening interview were identified from information recorded in birth records, and from neighborhood characteristics identified from 1990 US Census block group data for the family residence when the twins were born. African-American families were under-represented in the final sample, but this effect was barely significant when other variables were controlled for. Under-represented were families where the mother was 19 or younger at the birth of the twins, where the mother herself was born out-of-state, or where information about biological father was not reported in the birth record. Non-participating families on average came from neighborhoods with a higher proportion of residents living in poverty, and with a higher proportion of African-American residents. Sampling biases were however small. The unusual cooperativeness in research of families with twins persists.
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and physical abuse (CPA) are well-established risk-factors for a wide of range of proximal and distal outcomes. The lack of availability of an optimal design for examining abuse and its consequences has resulted in the use of various approaches, each having its own limitations. We describe the Childhood Trauma Study, which ascertained families from a large young adult Australian twin cohort on the basis of twins' responses to screening questions assessing CSA and CPA. We report data from 3407 participants including twins, non-twin siblings, and their parents. Our data demonstrate the feasibility of using a comprehensive assessment to evaluate retrospective history of childhood abuse in an adult sample. We observed that risk for each form of abuse increased incrementally with the number of parents with alcohol problems. Psychometric properties of our measures of CSA and CPA including reasonable long-term stability, construct validity, and evidence of familial corroboration compare favorably with those of other reports in which samples were considerably younger and assessments were repeated over shorter intervals.
There have been few replicated examples of genotype x environment interaction effects on behavioral variation or risk of psychiatric disorder. We review some of the factors that have made detection of genotype x environment interaction effects difficult, and show how genotype x shared environment interaction (GxSE) effects are commonly confounded with genetic parameters in data from twin pairs reared together. Historic data on twin pairs reared apart can in principle be used to estimate such GxSE effects, but have rarely been used for this purpose. We illustrate this using previously published data from the Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging (SATSA), which suggest that GxSE effects could account for as much as 25% of the total variance in risk of becoming a regular smoker. Since few separated twin pairs will be available for study in the future, we also consider methods for modifying variance components linkage analysis to allow for environmental interactions with linked loci.
For zygosity diagnosis in the absence of genotypic data, or in the recruitment phase of a twin study where only single twins from same-sex pairs are being screened, or to provide a test for sample duplication leading to the false identification of a dizygotic pair as monozygotic, the appropriate analysis of respondents' answers to questions about zygosity is critical. Using data from a young adult Australian twin cohort (N = 2094 complete pairs and 519 singleton twins from same-sex pairs with complete responses to all zygosity items), we show that application of latent class analysis (LCA), fitting a 2-class model, yields results that show good concordance with traditional methods of zygosity diagnosis, but with certain important advantages. These include the ability, in many cases, to assign zygosity with specified probability on the basis of responses of a single informant (advantageous when one zygosity type is being oversampled); and the ability to quantify the probability of misassignment of zygosity, allowing prioritization of cases for genotyping as well as identification of cases of probable laboratory error. Out of 242 twins (from 121 like-sex pairs) where genotypic data were available for zygosity confirmation, only a single case was identified of incorrect zygosity assignment by the latent class algorithm. Zygosity assignment for that single case was identified by the LCA as uncertain (probability of being a monozygotic twin only 76%), and the co-twin's responses clearly identified the pair as dizygotic (probability of being dizygotic 100%). In the absence of genotypic data, or as a safeguard against sample duplication, application of LCA for zygosity assignment or confirmation is strongly recommended.
This article applies methods of latent class analysis (LCA) to data on lifetime illicit drug use in order to determine whether qualitatively distinct classes of illicit drug users can be identified. Self-report data on lifetime illicit drug use (cannabis, stimulants, hallucinogens, sedatives, inhalants, cocaine, opioids and solvents) collected from a sample of 6265 Australian twins (average age 30 years) were analyzed using LCA. Rates of childhood sexual and physical abuse, lifetime alcohol and tobacco dependence, symptoms of illicit drug abuse/dependence and psychiatric comorbidity were compared across classes using multinomial logistic regression. LCA identified a 5-class model: Class 1 (68.5%) had low risks of the use of all drugs except cannabis; Class 2 (17.8%) had moderate risks of the use of all drugs; Class 3 (6.6%) had high rates of cocaine, other stimulant and hallucinogen use but lower risks for the use of sedatives or opioids. Conversely, Class 4 (3.0%) had relatively low risks of cocaine, other stimulant or hallucinogen use but high rates of sedative and opioid use. Finally, Class 5 (4.2%) had uniformly high probabilities for the use of all drugs. Rates of psychiatric comorbidity were highest in the polydrug class although the sedative/opioid class had elevated rates of depression/suicidal behaviors and exposure to childhood abuse. Aggregation of population-level data may obscure important subgroup differences in patterns of illicit drug use and psychiatric comorbidity. Further exploration of a ‘self-medicating’ subgroup is needed.
Alcohol abuse and dependence are among the most common psychiatric conditions identified in epidemiological surveys of the general population. The aim of this article is to examine the psychometric properties of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence using latent class analysis (LCA). Six thousand two hundred and sixty-five young Australian twins (median age 30 years) were interviewed by telephone between 1996 and 2000 using a modified version of the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA). DSM-IV symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence were collected by structured diagnostic interview and analyzed using methods of LCA. LCA revealed a 4-class solution for women that classified individuals according to the severity of their alcohol- related problems: no/few problems (66.5%), heavy drinking (23.9%), moderate dependence (7.6%) and severe dependence (2.0%). Among men the preferred solution included 5 classes corresponding to no/few problems (46.4%), heavy drinking (34.3%), moderate dependence (12.2%), severe dependence (3.0%) and abuse (4.0%). Evidence of a male-specific class of alcohol-related problems corresponding to abuse partially supports the DSM conceptualization of alcohol use disorders but suggests that this conceptualization — and measurement — may need to be refined for women. Identification of a male- specific abuse class also has important implications for interventions and treatment as these individuals experienced significant alcohol-related problems and comprised approximately 21% of all men classified with an alcohol use disorder.
Background. This study examined the relationships between self-reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and drug-related outcomes in an Australian twin panel.
Method. A semi-structured psychiatric interview was conducted in 1996–2000 by telephone with young adult Australian twins (mean age 29·9 years). Data reported here are from 6050 twins who responded to both CSA and drug-related items.
Results. A history of CSA was associated with significant risk for subsequently occurring regular smoking and use of each illicit drug class. Further CSA-associated risk was found among regular users, for nicotine and alcohol dependence, and among illicit drug users, for abuse/dependence of most drug classes. In same-sex discordant pairs, significant risk for regular smoking and illicit drug use was found in twins with a history of CSA compared to their non-abused co-twins. Similar analyses for abuse/dependence found significant risk for opioids, any illicit drug, and any non-cannabis illicit drug. CSA was associated with significantly earlier drug use. Despite the association of CSA with risk for early-onset cannabis use and regular smoking, risks for illicit drug outcomes associated with CSA and with either form of early-onset use combine in near-additive fashion.
Conclusions. CSA is associated with risk for subsequently occurring regular smoking and illicit drug use and abuse/dependence. Risks for drug use are mildly attenuated with control for familial contributions; similar risks for abuse/dependence remain significant for opioids and for illicit drugs combined across classes. Although we found evidence of earlier onset drug use with CSA, risks associated with CSA and with early-onset use combine in a largely additive manner.
Background. Genetic influences have been shown to play a major role in determining the risk of alcohol dependence (AD) in both women and men; however, little attention has been directed to identifying the major sources of genetic variation in AD risk.
Method. Diagnostic telephone interview data from young adult Australian twin pairs born between 1964 and 1971 were analyzed. Cox regression models were fitted to interview data from a total of 2708 complete twin pairs (690 MZ female, 485 MZ male, 500 DZ female, 384 DZ male, and 649 DZ female/male pairs). Structural equation models were fitted to determine the extent of residual genetic and environmental influences on AD risk while controlling for effects of sociodemographic and psychiatric predictors on risk.
Results. Risk of AD was increased in males, in Roman Catholics, in those reporting a history of major depression, social anxiety problems, and conduct disorder, or (in females only) a history of suicide attempt and childhood sexual abuse; but was decreased in those reporting Baptist, Methodist, or Orthodox religion, in those who reported weekly church attendance, and in university-educated males. After allowing for the effects of sociodemographic and psychiatric predictors, 47% (95% CI 28–55) of the residual variance in alcoholism risk was attributable to additive genetic effects, 0% (95% CI 0–14) to shared environmental factors, and 53% (95% CI 45–63) to non-shared environmental influences.
Conclusions. Controlling for other risk factors, substantial residual heritability of AD was observed, suggesting that psychiatric and other risk factors play a minor role in the inheritance of AD.
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