The Convergence of eQTL Mapping, Heritability Estimation and Polygenic Modeling: Emerging Spectrum of Risk Variation in Bipolar Disorder

The Convergence of eQTL Mapping, Heritability Estimation and Polygenic Modeling: Emerging Spectrum of Risk Variation in Bipolar Disorder
Eric R. Gamazon, Hae Kyung Im, Chunyu Liu, Members of the Bipolar Disorder Genome Study (BiGS) Consortium, Dan L. Nicolae, Nancy J. Cox
(Submitted on 25 Mar 2013)

It is widely held that a substantial genetic component underlies Bipolar Disorder (BD) and other neuropsychiatric disease traits. Recent efforts have been aimed at understanding the genetic basis of disease susceptibility, with genome-wide association studies (GWAS) unveiling some promising associations. Nevertheless, the genetic etiology of BD remains elusive with a substantial proportion of the heritability – which has been estimated to be 80% based on twin and family studies – unaccounted for by the specific genetic variants identified by large-scale GWAS. Furthermore, functional understanding of associated loci generally lags discovery. Studies we report here provide considerable support to the claim that substantially more remains to be gained from GWAS on the genetic mechanisms underlying BD susceptibility, and that a large proportion of the variation in disease risk may be uncovered through integrative functional genomic approaches. We combine recent analytic advances in heritability estimation and polygenic modeling and leverage recent technological advances in the generation of -omics data to evaluate the nature and scale of the contribution of functional classes of genetic variation to a relatively intractable disorder. We identified cis eQTLs in cerebellum and parietal cortex that capture more than half of the total heritability attributable to SNPs interrogated through GWAS and showed that eQTL-based heritability estimation is highly tissue-dependent. Our findings show that a much greater resolution may be attained than has been reported thus far on the number of common loci that capture a substantial proportion of the heritability to disease risk and that the functional nature of contributory loci may be clarified en masse.

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