Multisystem component phenotypes of bipolar disorder for genetic investigations of extended pedigrees

JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;71(4):375-87. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4100.


Importance: Genetic factors contribute to risk for bipolar disorder (BP), but its pathogenesis remains poorly understood. A focus on measuring multisystem quantitative traits that may be components of BP psychopathology may enable genetic dissection of this complex disorder, and investigation of extended pedigrees from genetically isolated populations may facilitate the detection of specific genetic variants that affect BP as well as its component phenotypes.

Objective: To identify quantitative neurocognitive, temperament-related, and neuroanatomical phenotypes that appear heritable and associated with severe BP (bipolar I disorder [BP-I]) and therefore suitable for genetic linkage and association studies aimed at identifying variants contributing to BP-I risk.

Design, setting, and participants: Multigenerational pedigree study in 2 closely related, genetically isolated populations: the Central Valley of Costa Rica and Antioquia, Colombia. A total of 738 individuals, all from Central Valley of Costa Rica and Antioquia pedigrees, participated; among them, 181 have BP-I.

Main outcomes and measures: Familial aggregation (heritability) and association with BP-I of 169 quantitative neurocognitive, temperament, magnetic resonance imaging, and diffusion tensor imaging phenotypes.

Results: Of 169 phenotypes investigated, 126 (75%) were significantly heritable and 53 (31%) were associated with BP-I. About one-quarter of the phenotypes, including measures from each phenotype domain, were both heritable and associated with BP-I. Neuroimaging phenotypes, particularly cortical thickness in prefrontal and temporal regions as well as volume and microstructural integrity of the corpus callosum, represented the most promising candidate traits for genetic mapping related to BP based on strong heritability and association with disease. Analyses of phenotypic and genetic covariation identified substantial correlations among the traits, at least some of which share a common underlying genetic architecture.

Conclusions and relevance: To our knowledge, this is the most extensive investigation of BP-relevant component phenotypes to date. Our results identify brain and behavioral quantitative traits that appear to be genetically influenced and show a pattern of BP-I association within families that is consistent with expectations from case-control studies. Together, these phenotypes provide a basis for identifying loci contributing to BP-I risk and for genetic dissection of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Temperament