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Recent well-powered genome-wide association studies have enhanced prediction of substance use outcomes via polygenic scores (PGSs). Here, we test (1) whether these scores contribute to prediction over-and-above family history, (2) the extent to which PGS prediction reflects inherited genetic variation v. demography (population stratification and assortative mating) and indirect genetic effects of parents (genetic nurture), and (3) whether PGS prediction is mediated by behavioral disinhibition prior to substance use onset.
PGSs for alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine use/use disorder were calculated for Minnesota Twin Family Study participants (N = 2483, 1565 monozygotic/918 dizygotic). Twins' parents were assessed for histories of substance use disorder. Twins were assessed for behavioral disinhibition at age 11 and substance use from ages 14 to 24. PGS prediction of substance use was examined using linear mixed-effects, within-twin pair, and structural equation models.
Nearly all PGS measures were associated with multiple types of substance use independently of family history. However, most within-pair PGS prediction estimates were substantially smaller than the corresponding between-pair estimates, suggesting that prediction is driven in part by demography and indirect genetic effects of parents. Path analyses indicated the effects of both PGSs and family history on substance use were mediated via disinhibition in preadolescence.
PGSs capturing risk of substance use and use disorder can be combined with family history measures to augment prediction of substance use outcomes. Results highlight indirect sources of genetic associations and preadolescent elevations in behavioral disinhibition as two routes through which these scores may relate to substance use.
To better characterize brain-based mechanisms of polygenic liability for psychopathology and psychological traits, we extended our previous report (Liu et al. Psychophysiological endophenotypes to characterize mechanisms of known schizophrenia genetic loci. Psychological Medicine, 2017), focused solely on schizophrenia, to test the association between multivariate psychophysiological candidate endophenotypes (including novel measures of θ/δ oscillatory activity) and a range of polygenic scores (PGSs), namely alcohol/cannabis/nicotine use, an updated schizophrenia PGS (containing 52 more genome-wide significant loci than the PGS used in our previous report) and educational attainment.
A large community-based twin/family sample (N = 4893) was genome-wide genotyped and imputed. PGSs were constructed for alcohol use, regular smoking initiation, lifetime cannabis use, schizophrenia, and educational attainment. Eleven endophenotypes were assessed: visual oddball task event-related electroencephalogram (EEG) measures (target-related parietal P3 amplitude, frontal θ, and parietal δ energy/inter-trial phase clustering), band-limited resting-state EEG power, antisaccade error rate. Principal component analysis exploited covariation among endophenotypes to extract a smaller number of meaningful dimensions/components for statistical analysis.
Endophenotypes were heritable. PGSs showed expected intercorrelations (e.g. schizophrenia PGS correlated positively with alcohol/nicotine/cannabis PGSs). Schizophrenia PGS was negatively associated with an event-related P3/δ component [β = −0.032, nonparametric bootstrap 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.059 to −0.003]. A prefrontal control component (event-related θ/antisaccade errors) was negatively associated with alcohol (β = −0.034, 95% CI −0.063 to −0.006) and regular smoking PGSs (β = −0.032, 95% CI −0.061 to −0.005) and positively associated with educational attainment PGS (β = 0.031, 95% CI 0.003–0.058).
Evidence suggests that multivariate endophenotypes of decision-making (P3/δ) and cognitive/attentional control (θ/antisaccade error) relate to alcohol/nicotine, schizophrenia, and educational attainment PGSs and represent promising targets for future research.
Substance use occurs at a high rate in persons with a psychiatric disorder. Genetically informative studies have the potential to elucidate the etiology of these phenomena. Recent developments in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) allow new avenues of investigation.
Using results of GWAS meta-analyses, we performed a factor analysis of the genetic correlation structure, a genome-wide search of shared loci, and causally informative tests for six substance use phenotypes (four smoking, one alcohol, and one cannabis use) and five psychiatric disorders (ADHD, anorexia, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia).
Two correlated externalizing and internalizing/psychosis factor were found, although model fit was beneath conventional standards. Of 458 loci reported in previous univariate GWAS of substance use and psychiatric disorders, about 50% (230 loci) were pleiotropic with additional 111 pleiotropic loci not reported from past GWAS. Of the 341 pleiotropic loci, 152 were associated with both substance use and psychiatric disorders, implicating neurodevelopment, cell morphogenesis, biological adhesion pathways, and enrichment in 13 different brain tissues. Seventy-five and 114 pleiotropic loci were specific to either psychiatric disorders or substance use phenotypes, implicating neuronal signaling pathway and clathrin-binding functions/structures, respectively. No consistent evidence for phenotypic causation was found across different Mendelian randomization methods.
Genetic etiology of substance use and psychiatric disorders is highly pleiotropic and involves shared neurodevelopmental path, neurotransmission, and intracellular trafficking. In aggregate, the patterns are not consistent with vertical pleiotropy, more likely reflecting horizontal pleiotropy or more complex forms of phenotypic causation.
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