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The relationship between common variant schizophrenia liability and number of offspring in the UK Biobank

Escott-Price, Valentina ORCID:, Pardinas, Antonio F. ORCID:, Santiago, Enrique, Walters, James ORCID:, Kirov, George ORCID:, Owen, Michael J. ORCID: and O'Donovan, Michael C. ORCID: 2019. The relationship between common variant schizophrenia liability and number of offspring in the UK Biobank. American Journal of Psychiatry 176 (8) , pp. 661-666. 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18020140

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Objective: Schizophrenia is associated with a marked reduction in reproductive success, yet alleles that are common contribute substantially to the liability of the disorder. Among several possible explanations for this, it has been postulated that individuals who carry risk alleles but are unaffected are at some reproductive advantage, offsetting the effects of negative selection among those who are affected. The authors sought to test this hypothesis, isolating the effects of risk alleles on fecundity from the effects that are contingent on expressing schizophrenia. Methods: The burden of schizophrenia risk alleles, as indexed by a polygenic risk score (PRS), carried by 139,679 participants in the UK Biobank study who did not have schizophrenia was compared with the number of offspring of these individuals. Results: Higher schizophrenia liability in study subjects without manifest disorder was weakly but significantly associated with having more children (B=0.006, 95% CI=0.002, 0.010). The relationship was dependent on sex, with a positive correlation between number of children and liability among females (B=0.011, 95% CI=0.006, 0.016), whereas among males, higher liability was associated with being childless (odds ratio=0.96, 95% CI=0.94, 0.98). The negative effect on number of children associated with schizophrenia itself was twofold to 15-fold greater than the positive effect associated with PRS in unaffected individuals. Conclusions: These findings suggest that a complex relationship between liability and fecundity is consistent with sexual selection. Although the overall pattern of a weak positive correlation with liability may contribute to the persistence of schizophrenia risk alleles, these results indicate that the negative selection acting on individuals affected by schizophrenia in the general population is larger than any advantage conferred by genetic loading in unaffected individuals.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Publisher: American Psychiatric Publishing
ISSN: 0002-953X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 January 2021
Date of Acceptance: 21 August 2018
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2023 22:49

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