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The genetic architecture of the human cerebral cortex.

Science. 2020 Mar 20;367(6484). pii: eaay6690. doi: 10.1126/science.aay6690.

Authors/Editors: Grasby KL, Jahanshad N, Painter JN, Colodro-Conde L, Bralten J, Hibar DP, Lind PA, Pizzagalli F, Ching CRK, McMahon MAB, Shatokhina N, Zsembik LCP, Thomopoulos SI, Zhu AH, Strike LT, Agartz I, Alhusaini S, Almeida MAA, Alnæs D, Amlien IK, Andersson M, Ard T, Armstrong NJ, Ashley-Koch A, Atkins JR, Bernard M, Brouwer RM, Buimer EEL, Bülow R, Bürger C, Cannon DM, Chakravarty M, Chen Q, Cheung JW, Couvy-Duchesne B, Dale AM, Dalvie S, de Araujo TK, de Zubicaray GI, de Zwarte SMC, den Braber A, Doan NT, Dohm K, Ehrlich S, Engelbrecht HR, Erk S, Fan CC, Fedko IO, Foley SF, Ford JM, Fukunaga M, Garrett ME, Ge T, Giddaluru S, Goldman AL, Green MJ, Groenewold NA, Grotegerd D, Gurholt TP, Gutman BA, Hansell NK, Harris MA, Harrison MB, Haswell CC, Hauser M, Herms S, Heslenfeld DJ, Ho NF, Hoehn D, Hoffmann P, Holleran L, Hoogman M, Hottenga JJ, Ikeda M, Janowitz D, Jansen IE, Jia T, Jockwitz C, Kanai R, Karama S, Kasperaviciute D, Kaufmann T, Kelly S, Kikuchi M, Klein M, Knapp M, Knodt AR, Krämer B, Lam M, Lancaster TM, Lee PH, Lett TA, Lewis LB, Lopes-Cendes I, Luciano M, Macciardi F, Marquand AF, Mathias SR, Melzer TR, Milaneschi Y, Mirza-Schreiber N, Moreira JCV, Mühleisen TW, Müller-Myhsok B, Najt P, Nakahara S, Nho K, Olde Loohuis LM, Orfanos DP, Pearson JF, Pitcher TL, Pütz B, Quidé Y, Ragothaman A, Rashid FM, Reay WR, Redlich R, Reinbold CS, Repple J, Richard G, Riedel BC, Risacher SL, Rocha CS, Mota NR, Salminen L, Saremi A, Saykin AJ, Schlag F, Schmaal L, Schofield PR, Secolin R, Shapland CY, Shen L, Shin J, Shumskaya E, Sønderby IE, Sprooten E, Tansey KE, Teumer A, Thalamuthu A, Tordesillas-Gutiérrez D, Turner JA, Uhlmann A, Vallerga CL, van der Meer D, van Donkelaar MMJ, van Eijk L, van Erp TGM, van Haren NEM, van Rooij D, van Tol MJ, Veldink JH, Verhoef E, Walton E, Wang M, Wang Y, Wardlaw JM, Wen W, Westlye LT, Whelan CD, Witt SH, Wittfeld K, Wolf C, Wolfers T, Wu JQ, Yasuda CL, Zaremba D, Zhang Z, Zwiers MP, Artiges E, Assareh AA, Ayesa-Arriola R, Belger A, Brandt CL, Brown GG, Cichon S, Curran JE, Davies GE, Degenhardt F, Dennis MF, Dietsche B, Djurovic S, Doherty CP, Espiritu R, Garijo D, Gil Y, Gowland PA, Green RC, Häusler AN, Heindel W, Ho BC, Hoffmann WU, Holsboer F, Homuth G, Hosten N, Jack CR Jr, Jang M, Jansen A, Kimbrel NA, Kolskår K, Koops S, Krug A, Lim KO, Luykx JJ, Mathalon DH, Mather KA, Mattay VS, Matthews S, Mayoral Van Son J, McEwen SC, Melle I, Morris DW, Mueller BA, Nauck M, Nordvik JE, Nöthen MM, O'Leary DS, Opel N, Martinot MP, Pike GB, Preda A, Quinlan EB, Rasser PE, Ratnakar V, Reppermund S, Steen VM, Tooney PA, Torres FR, Veltman DJ, Voyvodic JT, Whelan R, White T, Yamamori H, Adams HHH, Bis JC, Debette S, Decarli C, Fornage M, Gudnason V, Hofer E, Ikram MA, Launer L, Longstreth WT, Lopez OL, Mazoyer B, Mosley TH, Roshchupkin GV, Satizabal CL, Schmidt R, Seshadri S, Yang Q; Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative; CHARGE Consortium; EPIGEN Consortium; IMAGEN Consortium; SYS Consortium; Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, Alvim MKM, Ames D, Anderson TJ, Andreassen OA, Arias-Vasquez A, Bastin ME, Baune BT, Beckham JC, Blangero J, Boomsma DI, Brodaty H, Brunner HG, Buckner RL, Buitelaar JK, Bustillo JR, Cahn W, Cairns MJ, Calhoun V, Carr VJ, Caseras X, Caspers S, Cavalleri GL, Cendes F, Corvin A, Crespo-Facorro B, Dalrymple-Alford JC, Dannlowski U, de Geus EJC, Deary IJ, Delanty N, Depondt C, Desrivières S, Donohoe G, Espeseth T, Fernández G, Fisher SE, Flor H, Forstner AJ, Francks C, Franke B, Glahn DC, Gollub RL, Grabe HJ, Gruber O, Håberg AK, Hariri AR, Hartman CA, Hashimoto R, Heinz A, Henskens FA, Hillegers MHJ, Hoekstra PJ, Holmes AJ, Hong LE, Hopkins WD, Hulshoff Pol HE, Jernigan TL, Jönsson EG, Kahn RS, Kennedy MA, Kircher TTJ, Kochunov P, Kwok JBJ, Le Hellard S, Loughland CM, Martin NG, Martinot JL, McDonald C, McMahon KL, Meyer-Lindenberg A, Michie PT, Morey RA, Mowry B, Nyberg L, Oosterlaan J, Ophoff RA, Pantelis C, Paus T, Pausova Z, Penninx BWJH, Polderman TJC, Posthuma D, Rietschel M, Roffman JL, Rowland LM, Sachdev PS, Sämann PG, Schall U, Schumann G, Scott RJ, Sim K, Sisodiya SM, Smoller JW, Sommer IE, St Pourcain B, Stein DJ, Toga AW, Trollor JN, Van der Wee NJA, van 't Ent D, Völzke H, Walter H, Weber B, Weinberger DR, Wright MJ, Zhou J, Stein JL, Thompson PM, Medland SE; Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis Consortium (ENIGMA)—Genetics working group.
Publication Date: 2020

04_grasby

Abstract

INTRODUCTION The cerebral cortex underlies our complex cognitive capabilities. Variations in human cortical surface area and thickness are associated with neurological, psychological, and behavioral traits and can be measured in vivo by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Studies in model organisms have identified genes that influence cortical structure, but little is known about common genetic variants that affect human cortical structure.

RATIONALE To identify genetic variants associated with human cortical structure at both global and regional levels, we conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of brain MRI data from 51,665 individuals across 60 cohorts. We analyzed the surface area and average thickness of the whole cortex and 34 cortical regions with known functional specializations.

RESULTS We identified 306 nominally genome-wide significant loci (P < 5 × 10−8) associated with cortical structure in a discovery sample of 33,992 participants of European ancestry. Of the 299 loci for which replication data were available, 241 loci influencing surface area and 14 influencing thickness remained significant after replication, with 199 loci passing multiple testing correction (P < 8.3 × 10−10; 187 influencing surface area and 12 influencing thickness).

Common genetic variants explained 34% (SE = 3%) of the variation in total surface area and 26% (SE = 2%) in average thickness; surface area and thickness showed a negative genetic correlation (rG = −0.32, SE = 0.05, P = 6.5 × 10−12), which suggests that genetic influences have opposing effects on surface area and thickness. Bioinformatic analyses showed that total surface area is influenced by genetic variants that alter gene regulatory activity in neural progenitor cells during fetal development. By contrast, average thickness is influenced by active regulatory elements in adult brain samples, which may reflect processes that occur after mid-fetal development, such as myelination, branching, or pruning. When considered together, these results support the radial unit hypothesis that different developmental mechanisms promote surface area expansion and increases in thickness.

To identify specific genetic influences on individual cortical regions, we controlled for global measures (total surface area or average thickness) in the regional analyses. After multiple testing correction, we identified 175 loci that influence regional surface area and 10 that influence regional thickness. Loci that affect regional surface area cluster near genes involved in the Wnt signaling pathway, which is known to influence areal identity.

We observed significant positive genetic correlations and evidence of bidirectional causation of total surface area with both general cognitive functioning and educational attainment. We found additional positive genetic correlations between total surface area and Parkinson’s disease but did not find evidence of causation. Negative genetic correlations were evident between total surface area and insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depressive symptoms, major depressive disorder, and neuroticism.

CONCLUSION This large-scale collaborative work enhances our understanding of the genetic architecture of the human cerebral cortex and its regional patterning. The highly polygenic architecture of the cortex suggests that distinct genes are involved in the development of specific cortical areas. Moreover, we find evidence that brain structure is a key phenotype along the causal pathway that leads from genetic variation to differences in general cognitive function.

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