An Atlas of Genetic Correlations and Genetically Informed Associations Linking Psychiatric and Immune-Related Phenotypes

JAMA Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 1;79(7):667-676. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.0914.


Importance: Certain psychiatric and immune-related disorders are reciprocal risk factors. However, the nature of these associations is unclear.

Objective: To characterize the pleiotropy between psychiatric and immune-related traits, as well as risk factors of hypothesized relevance.

Design, setting, and participants: This genetic association study was conducted from July 10, 2020, to January 15, 2022. Analyses used genome-wide association (GWA) statistics related to 14 psychiatric traits; 13 immune-related phenotypes, ie, allergic, autoimmune, and inflammatory disorders; and 15 risk factors related to health-related behaviors, social determinants of health, and stress response. Genetically correlated psychiatric-immune pairs were assessed using 2-sample mendelian randomization (MR) with sensitivity analyses and multivariable adjustment for genetic associations of third variables. False discovery rate correction (Q value < .05) was applied for each analysis.

Exposures: Genetic associations.

Main outcomes and measures: Genetic correlations and MR association estimates with SEs and P values. A data-driven approach was used that did not test a priori planned hypotheses.

Results: A total of 44 genetically correlated psychiatric-immune pairs were identified, including 31 positive correlations (most consistently involving asthma, Crohn disease, hypothyroidism, and ulcerative colitis) and 13 negative correlations (most consistently involving allergic rhinitis and type 1 diabetes). Correlations with third variables were especially strong for psychiatric phenotypes. MR identified 7 associations of psychiatric phenotypes on immune-related phenotypes that were robust to multivariable adjustment, including the positive association of (1) the psychiatric cross-disorder phenotype with asthma (odds ratio [OR], 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02-1.06), Crohn disease (OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.05-1.14), and ulcerative colitis (OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.05-1.14); (2) major depression with asthma (OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.13-1.37); (3) schizophrenia with Crohn disease (OR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.05-1.18) and ulcerative colitis (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.07-1.21); and a negative association of risk tolerance with allergic rhinitis (OR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.67-0.92).

Conclusions and relevance: Results of this genetic association study suggest that genetic liability for psychiatric disorders was associated with liability for several immune disorders, suggesting that vertical pleiotropy related to behavioral traits (or correlated third variables) contributes to clinical associations observed in population-scale data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Asthma* / genetics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative*
  • Crohn Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Rhinitis, Allergic*