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The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, with its impact on our way of life, is affecting our experiences and mental health. Notably, individuals with mental disorders have been reported to have a higher risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2. Personality traits could represent an important determinant of preventative health behaviour and, therefore, the risk of contracting the virus.
We examined overlapping genetic underpinnings between major psychiatric disorders, personality traits and susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Linkage disequilibrium score regression was used to explore the genetic correlations of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) susceptibility with psychiatric disorders and personality traits based on data from the largest available respective genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In two cohorts (the PsyCourse (n = 1346) and the HeiDE (n = 3266) study), polygenic risk scores were used to analyse if a genetic association between, psychiatric disorders, personality traits and COVID-19 susceptibility exists in individual-level data.
We observed no significant genetic correlations of COVID-19 susceptibility with psychiatric disorders. For personality traits, there was a significant genetic correlation for COVID-19 susceptibility with extraversion (P = 1.47 × 10−5; genetic correlation 0.284). Yet, this was not reflected in individual-level data from the PsyCourse and HeiDE studies.
We identified no significant correlation between genetic risk factors for severe psychiatric disorders and genetic risk for COVID-19 susceptibility. Among the personality traits, extraversion showed evidence for a positive genetic association with COVID-19 susceptibility, in one but not in another setting. Overall, these findings highlight a complex contribution of genetic and non-genetic components in the interaction between COVID-19 susceptibility and personality traits or mental disorders.
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.
Previous work suggests that reaction time variability (RTV) in attentional tasks, as a measure of cognitive stability, is associated with degree of Val loading in COMT Val158Met genotype, and that this association may be relevant for the aetiology of schizophrenia. This study examined (i) to what degree RTV pertaining to tasks of varying cognitive complexity would be associated with increased risk for schizophrenia and (ii) to what degree this would be mediated by Val loading.
COMT genotyping was investigated in a sample of 23 patients with schizophrenia, 33 first-degree relatives, and 21 controls. All participants performed the Flanker continuous performance test.
Schizophrenia liability was associated with number of correct trials of the Flanker test, but not with RTV, and this association was not mediated by COMT Val158Met genotype. Similarly, Met loading was associated with number of correct trials and with RTV, but this was not mediated by schizophrenia liability.
Associations between COMT Val158Met genotype and RTV do not appear to reflect transmission of schizophrenia liability in families. Differential associations with Val and Met alleles across studies suggest indirect effects through gene–gene interactions or the influence of a functional polymorphism near COMT Val158Met.
Psychotic patients with COMTVal158Met Met alleles were recently found to display more intense psychotic and affective responses to daily life stressors. We aimed to test the hypothesis that the Met allele is implicated in the development of affective and psychotic symptomatology in subjects genetically at risk for schizophrenia, by testing if unaffected first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia who share a Met allele have greater concordance of symptomatology than relatives not sharing a Met allele.
Unaffected relatives (n = 38) were arranged in as many genetically related pairs as possible (n = 26), and Met-sharing between Index Unaffected Subject (IUS) and Related Unaffected Subject (RUS) was assessed. Symptomatology was assessed with the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) total score.
Multilevel regression revealed an interaction between RUS BPRS score and Met-sharing in the model of IUS BPRS score (interaction χ2 = 3.78, p = 0.05). Stratified analyses revealed that IUS–RUS total BPRS scores were significantly associated in the case of Met-sharing (B = 0.57, 95% CI: 0.22–0.93, p = 0.002), but were not when there was no Met-sharing.
These findings support the hypothesis that the Met allele may be involved in the causation of psychopathology, at least in populations with a genetic predisposition to psychosis.
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