Brain-based gene expression of putative risk genes for anorexia nervosa

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 May 23. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-02110-2. Online ahead of print.


The etiology of anorexia nervosa (AN) remains elusive. Recent genome-wide association studies identified the first genes liked to AN which reached genome-wide significance, although our understanding of how these genes confer risk remains preliminary. Here, we leverage the Allen Human Brain Atlas to characterize the spatially distributed gene expression patterns of genes linked to AN in the non-disordered human brain, developing whole-brain maps of AN gene expression. We found that genes associated with AN are most expressed in the brain, relative to all other body tissue types, and demonstrate gene-specific expression patterns which extend to cerebellar, temporal and basal ganglia structures in particular. fMRI meta-analyses reveal that AN gene expression maps correspond with functional brain activity involved in processing and anticipating appetitive and aversive cues. Findings offer novel insights around putative mechanisms through which genes associated with AN may confer risk.