Dissociation of accumulated genetic risk and disease severity in patients with schizophrenia

2011 | journal article

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​Dissociation of accumulated genetic risk and disease severity in patients with schizophrenia​
Papiol, S. ; Malzahn, D. ; Kästner, A. ; Sperling, S. ; Begemann, M. ; Stefansson, H. & Bickeböller, H.  et al.​ (2011) 
Translational Psychiatry1(10) art. e45​.​ DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2011.43 

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Papiol, Sergi ; Malzahn, Dörte ; Kästner, Anne ; Sperling, Swetlana ; Begemann, Martin ; Stefansson, Hreinn; Bickeböller, Heike ; Nave, Klaus-Armin ; Ehrenreich, Hannelore 
Genotype–phenotype correlations of common monogenic diseases revealed that the degree of deviation of mutant genes from wild-type structure and function often predicts disease onset and severity. In complex disorders such as schizophrenia, the overall genetic risk is still often >50% but genotype–phenotype relationships are unclear. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) replicated a risk for several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) regarding the endpoint diagnosis of schizophrenia. The biological relevance of these SNPs, however, for phenotypes or severity of schizophrenia has remained obscure. We hypothesized that the GWAS ‘top-10’ should as single markers, but even more so upon their accumulation, display associations with lead features of schizophrenia, namely positive and negative symptoms, cognitive deficits and neurological signs (including catatonia), and/or with age of onset of the disease prodrome as developmental readout and predictor of disease severity. For testing this hypothesis, we took an approach complementary to GWAS, and performed a phenotype-based genetic association study (PGAS). We utilized the to our knowledge worldwide largest phenotypical database of schizophrenic patients (n>1000), the GRAS (Göttingen Research Association for Schizophrenia) Data Collection. We found that the ‘top-10’ GWAS-identified risk SNPs neither as single markers nor when explored in the sense of a cumulative genetic risk, have any predictive value for disease onset or severity in the schizophrenic patients, as demonstrated across all core symptoms. We conclude that GWAS does not extract disease genes of general significance in schizophrenia, but may yield, on a hypothesis-free basis, candidate genes relevant for defining disease subgroups.
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Translational Psychiatry 



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