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Dissection of Major Depressive Disorder using polygenic risk scores for Schizophrenia in two independent cohort.

By HC Whalley, MJ Adams, LS Hall, T-K Clarke, AM Fernandez-Pujals, J Gibson, E Wigmore, Jonathan Hafferty, SP Hagenaars, G. Davies, A Campbell, C Hayward, Stephen M. Lawrie, DJ Porteous, IJ Deary, AM McIntosh

Posted 24 May 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/054973 (published DOI: 10.1038/tp.2016.207)

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is known for its substantial clinical and suspected causal heterogeneity. It is characterised by low mood, psychomotor slowing, and increased levels of the personality trait neuroticism; factors which are also associated with schizophrenia (SCZ). It is possible that some cases of MDD may have a substantial genetic loading for SCZ. A sign of the presence of SCZ-like MDD sub-groups would be indicated by an interaction between MDD status and polygenic risk of SCZ on cognitive, personality and mood measures. In the current study, we hypothesised that higher SCZ-polygenic risk would define larger MDD case-control differences in cognitive ability, and smaller differences in distress and neuroticism. Polygenic risk scores (PGRS) for SCZ and their association with cognitive variables, neuroticism, mood, and psychological distress were estimated in a large population-based cohort (Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study, GS:SFHS). Individuals were divided into those with, and without, depression (n=2587 & n=16,764 respectively) to test whether there was an interaction between MDD status and schizophrenia risk. Replication was sought in UK Biobank (n=33,525). In both GS:SFHS and UK Biobank we found significant interactions between SCZ-PGRS and MDD status for measures of psychological distress and neuroticism. In both cohorts there was a reduction of case-control differences on a background of higher genetic risk of SCZ. These findings suggest that depression on a background of high genetic risk for SCZ may show attenuated associations with distress and neuroticism. This may represent a causally distinct form of MDD more closely related to SCZ.

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