Phenotypic Manifestation of Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia During Adolescence in the General Population

Hannah J Jones*, Evangelia Stergiakouli, Katherine Tansey, Leon Hubbard, Jon E Heron, Mary Cannon, Peter Holmans, Glyn Lewis, David EJ Linden, Peter B Jones, George Davey Smith, Michael C O'Donovan, Michael J Owen, James T Walters, Stanley Zammit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)
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Importance Schizophrenia is a highly heritable, polygenic condition characterized by a relatively diverse phenotype and frequent comorbid conditions, such as anxiety and depression. At present, limited evidence explains how genetic risk for schizophrenia is manifest in the general population.

To investigate the extent to which genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with different phenotypes during adolescence in a population-based birth cohort.

Design, Setting, and Participants
This cohort study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Of 14 062 children in the birth cohort, genetic data were available for 9912 adolescents. Data were collected periodically from September 6, 1990, and collection is ongoing. Data were analyzed from March 4 to August 13, 2015.

Exposures Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for schizophrenia generated for individuals in the ALSPAC cohort using results of the second Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Schizophrenia genome-wide association study as a training set.

Main Outcomes and Measures Logistic regression was used to assess associations between the schizophrenia PRS and (1) psychotic experiences (Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview at 12 and 18 years of age), (2) negative symptoms (Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences at 16.5 years of age), (3) depressive disorder (Development and Well-Being Assessment at 15.5 years of age), and (4) anxiety disorder (Development and Well-Being Assessment at 15.5 years of age) in adolescence.

Results Of the 8230 ALSPAC participants whose genetic data passed quality control checks (51.2% male, 48.8% female), 3676 to 5444 participated in assessments from 12 to 18 years of age. The PRSs created using single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a training-set P ≤ .05 threshold were associated with negative symptoms (odds ratio [OR] per SD increase in PRS, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.08-1.36; R2 = 0.007) and anxiety disorder (OR per SD increase in PRS, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.06- 1.29; R2 = 0.005). No evidence was found of an association between schizophrenia PRS and psychotic experiences (OR per SD increase in PRS, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.98-1.19; R2 = 0.001) or depressive disorder (OR per SD increase in PRS, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.91-1.13; R2 = 0.00005). Results were mostly consistent across different training-set P value thresholds and using different cutoffs and measures of the psychopathological outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance This study demonstrates polygenic overlaps between common genetic polymorphisms associated with schizophrenia and negative symptoms and anxiety disorder but not with psychotic experiences or depression. Because the genetic risk for schizophrenia appears to be manifest as anxiety and negative symptoms during adolescence, a greater focus on these phenotypes rather than on psychotic experiences might be required for prediction of transition in at-risk samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-228
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Psychopathology
  • Schizophrenia
  • Epidemiology
  • Polygenic


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