Genetic underpinnings of left superior temporal gyrus thickness in patients with schizophrenia

World J Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Aug 7;1-11. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Schizophrenia is a highly disabling psychiatric disorder with a heterogeneous phenotypic appearance. We aimed to further the understanding of some of the underlying genetics of schizophrenia, using left superior temporal gyrus (STG) grey matter thickness reduction as an endophenoptype in a genome-wide association (GWA) study.

Methods: Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and genetic data of the Mind Clinical Imaging Consortium (MCIC) study of schizophrenia were used to analyse the interaction effects between 1,067,955 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and disease status on left STG thickness in 126 healthy controls and 113 patients with schizophrenia. We next used a pathway approach to detect underlying pathophysiological pathways that may be related to schizophrenia.

Results: No SNP by diagnosis interaction effect reached genome-wide significance (5 × 10-8) in our GWA study, but 10 SNPs reached P-values less than 10-6. The most prominent pathways included those involved in insulin, calcium, PI3K-Akt and MAPK signalling.

Conclusions: Our strongest findings in the GWA study and pathway analysis point towards an involvement of glucose metabolism in left STG thickness reduction in patients with schizophrenia only. These results are in line with recently published studies, which showed an increased prevalence of psychosis among patients with metabolic syndrome-related illnesses including diabetes.

Keywords: cortical thickness; genetics; imaging; schizophrenia; superior temporal gyrus.