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Sex differences in the human brain transcriptome of cases with schizophrenia

By Gabriel E. Hoffman, Yixuan Ma, Kelsey S. Montgomery, Jaroslav Bendl, Manoj Kumar Jaiswal, Alex Kozlenkov, the CommonMind Consortium, Mette A. Peters, Stella Dracheva, John F. Fullard, Andrew Chess, Bernie Devlin, Solveig K. Sieberts, Panos Roussos

Posted 07 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.05.326405

While schizophrenia differs between males and females in age of onset, symptomatology and the course of the disease, the molecular mechanisms underlying these differences remain uncharacterized. In order to address questions about the sex-specific effects of schizophrenia, we performed a large-scale transcriptome analysis of RNA-seq data from 437 controls and 341 cases from two distinct cohorts from the CommonMind Consortium. Analysis across the cohorts identifies a reproducible gene expression signature of schizophrenia that is highly concordant with previous work. Differential expression across sex is reproducible across cohorts and identifies X- and Y-linked genes, as well as those involved in dosage compensation. Intriguingly, the sex expression signature is also enriched for genes involved in neurexin family protein binding and synaptic organization. Differential expression analysis testing a sex-by-diagnosis interaction effect did not identify any genome-wide signature after multiple testing corrections. Gene co-expression network analysis was performed to reduce dimensionality and elucidate interactions among genes. We found enrichment of co-expression modules for sex-by-diagnosis differential expression signatures, which were highly reproducible across the two cohorts and involve a number of diverse pathways, including neural nucleus development, neuron projection morphogenesis, and regulation of neural precursor cell proliferation. Overall, our results indicate that the effect size of sex differences in schizophrenia gene expression signatures is small and underscore the challenge of identifying robust sex-by-diagnosis signatures, which will require future analyses in larger cohorts. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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