The human neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) gene is highly expressed in the brain, is implicated in numerous functions associated with neuronal development, and is a leading candidate gene for schizophrenia. The T allele of SNP8NRG243177, part of a risk haplotype for schizophrenia, has been previously associated with decreases in white matter in the right anterior internal capsule and the left anterior thalamic radiation. To our knowledge no studies have described the effects of SNP8NRG243177 on grey matter volume at a voxelwise level. We assessed associations between this SNP and brain structure in 79 general population volunteers from the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort (NFBC 1966). We show, for the first time, that genetic variation in SNP8NRG243177 is associated with variation in frontal brain structure in both grey and white matter. T allele carriers showed decreased grey matter volume in several frontal gyri, including inferior, middle and superior frontal gyri and the anterior cingulate gyrus, as well as decreased white matter volume in the regions of the genu and body of the corpus callosum, anterior and superior corona radiata, anterior limb of the internal capsule and external capsule regions traversed by major white matter tracts of the anterior thalamic radiation, and the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. These results suggest that this genetic variant may mediate risk for schizophrenia, in part, through its effect on brain structure in these regions.
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