Rare tandem repeat expansions associate with genes involved in synaptic and neuronal signaling functions in schizophrenia

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Jan;28(1):475-482. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01857-4. Epub 2022 Nov 16.


Tandem repeat expansions (TREs) are associated with over 60 monogenic disorders and have recently been implicated in complex disorders such as cancer and autism spectrum disorder. The role of TREs in schizophrenia is now emerging. In this study, we have performed a genome-wide investigation of TREs in schizophrenia. Using genome sequence data from 1154 Swedish schizophrenia cases and 934 ancestry-matched population controls, we have detected genome-wide rare (<0.1% population frequency) TREs that have motifs with a length of 2-20 base pairs. We find that the proportion of individuals carrying rare TREs is significantly higher in the schizophrenia group. There is a significantly higher burden of rare TREs in schizophrenia cases than in controls in genic regions, particularly in postsynaptic genes, in genes overlapping brain expression quantitative trait loci, and in brain-expressed genes that are differentially expressed between schizophrenia cases and controls. We demonstrate that TRE-associated genes are more constrained and primarily impact synaptic and neuronal signaling functions. These results have been replicated in an independent Canadian sample that consisted of 252 schizophrenia cases of European ancestry and 222 ancestry-matched controls. Our results support the involvement of rare TREs in schizophrenia etiology.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Canada
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia* / genetics