Dissecting the Shared Genetic Architecture of Common Epilepsies With Cortical Brain Morphology

Neurol Genet. 2024 May 29;10(3):e200143. doi: 10.1212/NXG.0000000000200143. eCollection 2024 Jun.


Background and objectives: Epilepsies are associated with differences in cortical thickness (TH) and surface area (SA). However, the mechanisms underlying these relationships remain elusive. We investigated the extent to which these phenotypes share genetic influences.

Methods: We analyzed genome-wide association study data on common epilepsies (n = 69,995) and TH and SA (n = 32,877) using Gaussian mixture modeling MiXeR and conjunctional false discovery rate (conjFDR) analysis to quantify their shared genetic architecture and identify overlapping loci. We biologically interrogated the loci using a variety of resources and validated in independent samples.

Results: The epilepsies (2.4 k-2.9 k variants) were more polygenic than both SA (1.8 k variants) and TH (1.3 k variants). Despite absent genome-wide genetic correlations, there was a substantial genetic overlap between SA and genetic generalized epilepsy (GGE) (1.1 k), all epilepsies (1.1 k), and juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) (0.7 k), as well as between TH and GGE (0.8 k), all epilepsies (0.7 k), and JME (0.8 k), estimated with MiXeR. Furthermore, conjFDR analysis identified 15 GGE loci jointly associated with SA and 15 with TH, 3 loci shared between SA and childhood absence epilepsy, and 6 loci overlapping between SA and JME. 23 loci were novel for epilepsies and 11 for cortical morphology. We observed a high degree of sign concordance in the independent samples.

Discussion: Our findings show extensive genetic overlap between generalized epilepsies and cortical morphology, indicating a complex genetic relationship with mixed-effect directions. The results suggest that shared genetic influences may contribute to cortical abnormalities in epilepsies.