The population persistence of schizophrenia despite associated reductions in fitness and fecundity suggests that the genetic basis of schizophrenia has a complex evolutionary history. A recent meta-analysis of schizophrenia genome-wide association studies offers novel opportunities for assessment of the evolutionary trajectories of schizophrenia-associated loci. In this study, we hypothesize that components of the genetic architecture of schizophrenia are attributable to human lineage-specific evolution. Our results suggest that schizophrenia-associated loci enrich in genes near previously identified human accelerated regions (HARs). Specifically, we find that genes near HARs conserved in nonhuman primates (pHARs) are enriched for schizophrenia-associated loci, and that pHAR-associated schizophrenia genes are under stronger selective pressure than other schizophrenia genes and other pHAR-associated genes. We further evaluate pHAR-associated schizophrenia genes in regulatory network contexts to investigate associated molecular functions and mechanisms. We find that pHAR-associated schizophrenia genes significantly enrich in a GABA-related coexpression module that was previously found to be differentially regulated in schizophrenia affected individuals versus healthy controls. In another two independent networks constructed from gene expression profiles from prefrontal cortex samples, we find that pHAR-associated schizophrenia genes are located in more central positions and their average path lengths to the other nodes are significantly shorter than those of other schizophrenia genes. Together, our results suggest that HARs are associated with potentially important functional roles in the genetic architecture of schizophrenia.
Keywords: GWAS; human accelerated evolution; networks; schizophrenia.
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