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The genetics of the mood disorder spectrum: genome-wide association analyses of over 185,000 cases and 439,000 controls

By Jonathan RI Coleman, Héléna A. Gaspar, Julien Bryois, Bipolar Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Gerome Breen

Posted 03 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/383331 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.10.015)

Background Mood disorders (including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder) affect 10-20% of the population. They range from brief, mild episodes to severe, incapacitating conditions that markedly impact lives. Despite their diagnostic distinction, multiple approaches have shown considerable sharing of risk factors across the mood disorders. Methods To clarify their shared molecular genetic basis, and to highlight disorder-specific associations, we meta-analysed data from the latest Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) genome-wide association studies of major depression (including data from 23andMe) and bipolar disorder, and an additional major depressive disorder cohort from UK Biobank (total: 185,285 cases, 439,741 controls; non-overlapping N = 609,424). Results Seventy-three loci reached genome-wide significance in the meta-analysis, including 15 that are novel for mood disorders. More genome-wide significant loci from the PGC analysis of major depression than bipolar disorder reached genome-wide significance. Genetic correlations revealed that type 2 bipolar disorder correlates strongly with recurrent and single episode major depressive disorder. Systems biology analyses highlight both similarities and differences between the mood disorders, particularly in the mouse brain cell types implicated by the expression patterns of associated genes. The mood disorders also differ in their genetic correlation with educational attainment – positive in bipolar disorder but negative in major depressive disorder. Conclusions The mood disorders share several genetic associations, and can be combined effectively to increase variant discovery. However, we demonstrate several differences between these disorders. Analysing subtypes of major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder provides evidence for a genetic mood disorders spectrum.

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