Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by impairments in behavior, thought, and neurocognitive performance. We searched for susceptibility loci at a quantitative trait locus (QTL) previously reported for abstraction and mental flexibility (ABF), a cognitive function often compromised in schizophrenia patients and their unaffected relatives. Exome sequences were determined for 134 samples in 8 European American families from the original linkage study, including 25 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. At chromosome 5q32-35.3, we analyzed 407 protein-altering variants for association with ABF and schizophrenia status. For replication, significant, Bonferroni-corrected findings were tested against cognitive traits in Mexican American families (n = 959), as well as interrogated for schizophrenia risk using GWAS results from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC). From the gene SYNPO, rs6579797 (MAF = 0.032) shows significant associations with ABF (P = .015) and schizophrenia (P = .040), as well as jointly (P = .0027). In the Mexican American pedigrees, rs6579797 exhibits significant associations with IQ (P = .011), indicating more global effects on neurocognition. From the PGC results, other SYNPO variants were identified with near significant effects on schizophrenia risk, with a local linkage disequilibrium block displaying signatures of positive selection. A second missense variant within the QTL, rs17551608 (MAF = 0.19) in the gene WWC1, also displays a significant effect on schizophrenia in our exome sequences (P = .038). Remarkably, the protein products of SYNPO and WWC1 are interaction partners involved in AMPA receptor trafficking, a brain process implicated in synaptic plasticity. Our study reveals variants in these genes with significant effects on neurocognition and schizophrenia risk, identifying a potential pathogenic mechanism for schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
Keywords: SYNPO; WWC1; cognition; schizophrenia; synaptic plasticity.
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