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Genetic variants associated with psychiatric disorders are enriched at epigenetically active sites in lymphoid cells

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Hayhurst, James 
Schwartzentruber, Jeremy 


Multiple psychiatric disorders have been associated with abnormalities in both the innate and adaptive immune systems. The role of these abnormalities in pathogenesis, and whether they are driven by psychiatric risk variants, remains unclear. We test for enrichment of GWAS variants associated with multiple psychiatric disorders (cross-disorder or trans-diagnostic risk), or 5 specific disorders (cis-diagnostic risk), in regulatory elements in immune cells. We use three independent epigenetic datasets representing multiple organ systems and immune cell subsets. Trans-diagnostic and cis-diagnostic risk variants (for schizophrenia and depression) are enriched at epigenetically active sites in brain tissues and in lymphoid cells, especially stimulated CD4+ T cells. There is no evidence for enrichment of either trans-risk or cis-risk variants for schizophrenia or depression in myeloid cells. This suggests a possible model where environmental stimuli activate T cells to unmask the effects of psychiatric risk variants, contributing to the pathogenesis of mental health disorders.



Catalytic Domain, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Lymphocytes, Mental Disorders, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Schizophrenia

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Nature Communications

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Nature Research
MRC (MR/S006257/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_G0802534)
This work was funded by an Medical Research Council award MR/S006257/1 (M.E.L.); NIHR Senior Investigator award (E.T.B); Open Targets grant OTAR040 (B.S., G.T.). Wellcome Trust grant WT206194 (G.T.); US Veterans Affairs Career Development Award (D.F.L.); NIHR Research Professorship RP-2017-08-ST2-002 (M.R.C.). This work was additionally supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.
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