Copy number variation and neuropsychiatric problems in females and males in the general population

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2019 Sep;180(6):341-350. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32685. Epub 2018 Oct 11.


Neurodevelopmental problems (NPs) are more common in males, whereas anxiety and depression are more common in females. Rare copy number variants (CNVs) have been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. The aim of this study was to characterize the relationship between rare CNVs with NPs, anxiety, and depression in a childhood population sample, as well as to examine sex-specific effects. We analyzed a sample of N = 12,982 children, of whom 5.3% had narrowly defined NPs (clinically diagnosed), 20.9% had broadly defined NPs (based on validated screening measures, but no diagnosis), and 3.0% had clinically diagnosed anxiety or depression. Rare (<1% frequency) CNVs were categorized by size (100-500 kb or > 500 kb), type, and putative relevance to NPs. We tested for association of CNV categories with outcomes and examined sex-specific effects. Medium deletions (OR[CI] = 1.18[1.05-1.33], p = .0053) and large duplications (OR[CI] = 1.45[1.19-1.75], p = .00017) were associated with broadly defined NPs. Large deletions (OR[CI] = 1.85[1.14-3.01], p = .013) were associated with narrowly defined NPs. There were no significant sex differences in CNV burden in individuals with NPs. Although CNVs were not associated with anxiety/depression in the whole sample, in individuals diagnosed with these disorders, females were more likely to have large CNVs (OR[CI] = 3.75[1.45-9.68], p = .0064). Rare CNVs are associated with both narrowly and broadly defined NPs in a general population sample of children. Our results also suggest that large, rare CNVs may show sex-specific phenotypic effects.

Keywords: anxiety; copy number variation; depression; neurodevelopmental problems; sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics
  • Child
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics*
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • INDEL Mutation / genetics
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / genetics*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Sex Factors
  • Sweden