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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.
Altered expression of the complement component C4A gene is a known risk factor for schizophrenia. Further, predicted brain C4A expression has also been associated with memory function highlighting that altered C4A expression in the brain may be relevant for cognitive and behavioral traits.
We obtained genetic information and performance measures on seven cognitive tasks for up to 329 773 individuals from the UK Biobank, as well as brain imaging data for a subset of 33 003 participants. Direct genotypes for variants (n = 3213) within the major histocompatibility complex region were used to impute C4 structural variation, from which predicted expression of the C4A and C4B genes in human brain tissue were predicted. We investigated if predicted brain C4A or C4B expression were associated with cognitive performance and brain imaging measures using linear regression analyses.
We identified significant negative associations between predicted C4A expression and performance on select cognitive tests, and significant associations with MRI-based cortical thickness and surface area in select regions. Finally, we observed significant inconsistent partial mediation of the effects of predicted C4A expression on cognitive performance, by specific brain structure measures.
These results demonstrate that the C4 risk locus is associated with the central endophenotypes of cognitive performance and brain morphology, even when considered independently of other genetic risk factors and in individuals without mental or neurological disorders.
We aimed at exploring potential pathophysiological processes across psychotic disorders, applying metabolomics in a large and well-characterized sample of patients and healthy controls.
Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders (N = 212) and healthy controls (N = 68) had blood sampling with subsequent metabolomics analyses using electrochemical coulometric array detection. Concentrations of 52 metabolites including tyrosine, tryptophan and purine pathways were compared between patients and controls while controlling for demographic and clinical characteristics. Significant findings were further tested in medication-free subsamples.
Significantly decreased plasma concentrations in patients compared to healthy controls were found for 3-hydroxykynurenine (3OHKY, p = 0.0008), xanthurenic acid (XANU, p = 1.5×10−5), vanillylmandelic acid (VMA, p = 4.5×10−5) and metanephrine (MN, p = 0.0001). Plasma concentration of xanthine (XAN) was increased in the patient group (p = 3.5×10−5). Differences of 3OHKY, XANU, VMA and XAN were replicated across schizophrenia spectrum disorders and bipolar disorders subsamples of medication-free individuals.
Although prone to residual confounding, the present results suggest the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan metabolism, noradrenergic and purinergic system dysfunction as trait factors in schizophrenia spectrum and bipolar disorders. Of special interest is XANU, a metabolite previously not found to be associated with bipolar disorders.
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