Rare variants implicate NMDA receptor signaling and cerebellar gene networks in risk for bipolar disorder.

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Publication Date


Publication Title

Molecular psychiatry


washington; isb; genomics


Bipolar disorder is an often-severe mental health condition characterized by alternation between extreme mood states of mania and depression. Despite strong heritability and the recent identification of 64 common variant risk loci of small effect, pathophysiological mechanisms remain unknown. Here, we analyzed genome sequences from 41 multiply-affected pedigrees and identified variants in 741 genes with nominally significant linkage or association with bipolar disorder. These 741 genes overlapped known risk genes for neurodevelopmental disorders and clustered within gene networks enriched for synaptic and nuclear functions. The top variant in this analysis - prioritized by statistical association, predicted deleteriousness, and network centrality - was a missense variant in the gene encoding D-amino acid oxidase (DAOG131V). Heterologous expression of DAOG131V in human cells resulted in decreased DAO protein abundance and enzymatic activity. In a knock-in mouse model of DAOG131, DaoG130V/+, we similarly found decreased DAO protein abundance in hindbrain regions, as well as enhanced stress susceptibility and blunted behavioral responses to pharmacological inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs). RNA sequencing of cerebellar tissue revealed that DaoG130V resulted in decreased expression of two gene networks that are enriched for synaptic functions and for genes expressed, respectively, in Purkinje neurons or granule neurons. These gene networks were also down-regulated in the cerebellum of patients with bipolar disorder compared to healthy controls and were enriched for additional rare variants associated with bipolar disorder risk. These findings implicate dysregulation of NMDAR signaling and of gene expression in cerebellar neurons in bipolar disorder pathophysiology and provide insight into its genetic architecture.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)


Behavioral Health


Institute for Systems Biology