Convergent and distributed effects of the schizophrenia-associated 3q29 deletion on the human neural transcriptome
The 3q29 deletion (3q29Del) confers >40-fold increased risk for schizophrenia. However, no single gene in this interval is definitively associated with disease, prompting the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric sequelae emerge upon loss of multiple functionally-connected genes. 3q29 genes are unevenly annotated and the impact of 3q29Del on the human neural transcriptome is unknown. To systematically formulate unbiased hypotheses about molecular mechanisms linking 3q29Del to neuropsychiatric illness, we conducted a systems-level network analysis of the non-pathological adult human cortical transcriptome and generated evidence-based predictions that relate 3q29 genes to novel functions and disease associations. The 21 protein-coding genes located in the interval segregated into seven clusters of highly co-expressed genes, demonstrating both convergent and distributed effects of 3q29Del across the interrogated transcriptomic landscape. Pathway analysis of these clusters indicated involvement in nervous-system functions, including synaptic signaling and organization, as well as core cellular functions, including transcriptional regulation, post-translational modifications, chromatin remodeling and mitochondrial metabolism. Top network-neighbors of 3q29 genes showed significant overlap with known schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disability-risk genes, suggesting that 3q29Del biology is relevant to idiopathic disease. Leveraging guilt by association, we propose nine 3q29 genes, including one hub gene, as prioritized drivers of neuropsychiatric risk. These results provide testable hypotheses for experimental analysis on causal drivers and mechanisms of the largest known genetic risk factor for schizophrenia and highlight the study of normal function in non-pathological post-mortem tissue to further our understanding of psychiatric genetics, especially for rare syndromes like 3q29Del, where access to neural tissue from carriers is unavailable or limited. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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