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A longitudinal model of human neuronal differentiation for functional investigation of schizophrenia polygenic risk

By Anil P.S. Ori, Merel H.M. Bot, Remco T. Molenhuis, Loes M Olde Loohuis, Roel A. Ophoff

Posted 30 Oct 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/211581 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.08.019)

There is a pressing need for in vitro experimental systems that allow for interrogation of polygenic psychiatric disease risk to study the underlying biological mechanisms. We developed an analytical framework that integrates genome-wide disease risk from GWAS with longitudinal in vitro gene expression profiles of human neuronal differentiation. We demonstrate that the cumulative impact of risk loci of specific psychiatric disorders is significantly associated with genes that are differentially expressed across neuronal differentiation. We find significant evidence for schizophrenia, which is driven by a longitudinal synaptic gene cluster that is upregulated during differentiation. Our findings reveal that in vitro neuronal differentiation can be used to translate the polygenic architecture of schizophrenia to biologically relevant pathways that can be modeled in an experimental system. Overall, this work emphasizes the use of longitudinal in vitro transcriptomic signatures as a cellular readout and the application to the genetics of complex traits.

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