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Seasonality Shows Evidence for Polygenic Architecture and Genetic Correlation With Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2015;76(2):128–134
10.4088/JCP.14m08981

Objective: To test common genetic variants for association with seasonality (seasonal changes in mood and behavior) and to investigate whether there are shared genetic risk factors between psychiatric disorders and seasonality.

Method: Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) were conducted in Australian (between 1988 and 1990 and between 2010 and 2013) and Amish (between May 2010 and December 2011) samples in whom the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ) had been administered, and the results were meta-analyzed in a total sample of 4,156 individuals. Genetic risk scores based on results from prior large GWAS studies of bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia were calculated to test for overlap in risk between psychiatric disorders and seasonality.

Results: The most significant association was with rs11825064 (P = 1.7 × 10−6, β = 0.64, standard error = 0.13), an intergenic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) found on chromosome 11. The evidence for overlap in risk factors was strongest for schizophrenia and seasonality, with the schizophrenia genetic profile scores explaining 3% of the variance in log-transformed global seasonality scores. Bipolar disorder genetic profile scores were also associated with seasonality, although at much weaker levels (minimum P value = 3.4 × 10−3), and no evidence for overlap in risk was detected between MDD and seasonality.

Conclusions: Common SNPs of large effect most likely do not exist for seasonality in the populations examined. As expected, there were overlapping genetic risk factors for bipolar disorder (but not MDD) with seasonality. Unexpectedly, the risk for schizophrenia and seasonality had the largest overlap, an unprecedented finding that requires replication in other populations and has potential clinical implications considering overlapping cognitive deficits in seasonal affective disorders and schizophrenia.