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There is a well-established relationship between cannabis use and psychosis, although the exact nature of this relationship is not fully understood. Recent studies have observed significant genetic overlap between a diagnosis of schizophrenia and lifetime cannabis use. Expanding on this work, the current study aimed to examine whether genetic overlap also occurs for subclinical psychosis (schizotypy) and cannabis use, as well as examining the phenotypic association between the traits. Phenotypic correlations were calculated for a variety of schizotypy and cannabis phenotypes in the UK Biobank (UKB), and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based heritability estimates and genetic correlations were calculated for these UKB phenotypes as well as for several other variables taken from recent genomewide association studies. Positive phenotypic correlations were observed between 11 out of 12 pairs of the cannabis use and schizotypy phenotypes (correlation range .05–.18), indicating a robust association between increased symptoms of schizotypy and cannabis use. SNP-based heritability estimates for two schizotypy phenotypes remained significant after multiple testing correction: social anhedonia (h2SNP = .08, SE = .02, N = 4025) and ever seen an unreal vision (h2SNP = .35, SE = .10, N = 150,717). Finally, one significant genetic correlation was observed between schizotypy and cannabis use, a negative correlation between social anhedonia and number of times used cannabis (rg = −.30, p = .012). The current study suggests the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis is also seen in subclinical symptoms of psychosis, but further research with larger samples is needed to determine the biological mechanisms underlying this association.
Depression is a clinically heterogeneous disorder. Previous large-scale genetic studies of depression have explored genetic risk factors of depression case–control status or aggregated sums of depressive symptoms, ignoring possible clinical or genetic heterogeneity.
We analyse data from 148 752 subjects of white British ancestry in the UK Biobank who completed nine items of a self-rated measure of current depressive symptoms: the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Genome-Wide Association analyses were conducted for nine symptoms and two composite measures. LD Score Regression was used to calculate SNP-based heritability (h2SNP) and genetic correlations (rg) across symptoms and to investigate genetic correlations with 25 external phenotypes. Genomic structural equation modelling was used to test the genetic factor structure across the nine symptoms.
We identified nine genome-wide significant genomic loci (8 novel), with no overlap in loci across symptoms. h2SNP ranged from 6% (concentration problems) to 9% (appetite changes). Genetic correlations ranged from 0.54 to 0.96 (all p < 1.39 × 10−3) with 30 of 36 correlations being significantly smaller than one. A two-factor model provided the best fit to the genetic covariance matrix, with factors representing ‘psychological’ and ‘somatic’ symptoms. The genetic correlations with external phenotypes showed large variation across the nine symptoms.
Patterns of SNP associations and genetic correlations differ across the nine symptoms, suggesting that current depressive symptoms are genetically heterogeneous. Our study highlights the value of symptom-level analyses in understanding the genetic architecture of a psychiatric trait. Future studies should investigate whether genetic heterogeneity is recapitulated in clinical symptoms of major depression.
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.
Background. Frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption are metrics commonly used to measure alcohol consumption behaviors. Epidemiological studies indicate that these alcohol consumption measures are differentially associated with (mental) health outcomes and socioeconomic status (SES). The current study aims to elucidate to what extent genetic risk factors are shared between frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption, and how these alcohol consumption measures are genetically associated with four broad phenotypic categories: (i) SES; (ii) substance use disorders; (iii) other psychiatric disorders; and (iv) psychological/personality traits.
Methods. Genome-Wide Association analyses were conducted to test genetic associations with alcohol consumption frequency (N = 438 308) and alcohol consumption quantity (N = 307 098 regular alcohol drinkers) within UK Biobank. For the other phenotypes, we used genome-wide association studies summary statistics. Genetic correlations (rg) between the alcohol measures and other phenotypes were estimated using LD score regression.
Results. We found a substantial genetic correlation between the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption (rg = 0.52). Nevertheless, both measures consistently showed opposite genetic correlations with SES traits, and many substance use, psychiatric, and psychological/personality traits. High alcohol consumption frequency was genetically associated with high SES and low risk of substance use disorders and other psychiatric disorders, whereas the opposite applies for high alcohol consumption quantity.
Conclusions. Although the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption show substantial genetic overlap, they consistently show opposite patterns of genetic associations with SES-related phenotypes. Future studies should carefully consider the potential influence of SES on the shared genetic etiology between alcohol and adverse (mental) health outcomes.
Investigations on the relationship between sweet taste perception and body mass index (BMI) have been inconclusive. Here, we report a longitudinal analysis using a genetically informative sample of 1,576 adolescent Australian twins to explore the relationship between BMI and sweet taste. First, we estimated the phenotypic correlations between perception scores for four different sweet compounds (glucose, fructose, neohesperidine dihydrochalcone (NHDC), and aspartame) and BMI. Then, we computed the association between adolescent taste perception and BMI in early adulthood (reported 9 years later). Finally, we used twin modeling and polygenic risk prediction analysis to investigate the genetic overlap between BMI and sweet taste perception. Our findings revealed that BMI in early adulthood was significantly associated with each of the sweet perception scores, with the strongest correlation observed in aspartame with r = 0.09 (p = .007). However, only limited evidence of association was observed between sweet taste perception and BMI that was measured at the same time (in adolescence), with the strongest evidence of association observed for glucose with a correlation coefficient of r = 0.06 (p = .029) and for aspartame with r = 0.06 (p = .035). We found a significant (p < .05) genetic correlation between glucose and NHDC perception and BMI. Our analyses suggest that sweet taste perception in adolescence can be a potential indicator of BMI in early adulthood. This association is further supported by evidence of genetic overlap between the traits, suggesting that some BMI genes may be acting through biological pathways of taste perception.
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