Schizotypy-related magnetization of cortex in healthy adolescence is co-located with expression of schizophrenia-related genes

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Author Name

Rafael Romero-Garcia

Jakob Seidlitz

Peter Fonagy

Raymond J. Dolan

Peter B. Jones

Ian M. Goodyer

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Background Genetic risk is thought to drive clinical variation on a spectrum of schizophrenia-like traits but the underlying changes in brain structure that mechanistically link genomic variation to schizotypal experience and behaviour are unclear. Methods We assessed schizotypy using a self-reported questionnaire, and measured magnetization transfer (MT), as a putative micro-structural MRI marker of intra-cortical myelination, in 68 brain regions, in 248 healthy young people (aged 14-25 years). We used normative adult brain gene expression data, and partial least squares (PLS) analysis, to find the weighted gene expression pattern that was most co-located with the cortical map of schizotypy-related magnetization (SRM). Results Magnetization was significantly correlated with schizotypy in bilateral posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus (and for disorganized schizotypy also in medial prefrontal cortex; all FDR-corrected P < 0.05), which are regions of the default mode network specialized for social and memory functions. The genes most positively weighted on the whole genome expression map co-located with SRM were enriched for genes that were significantly down-regulated in two prior case-control histological studies of brain gene expression in schizophrenia. Conversely, the most negatively weighted genes were enriched for genes that were transcriptionally up-regulated in schizophrenia. Positively weighted (down-regulated) genes were enriched for neuronal, specifically inter-neuronal, affiliations and coded a network of proteins comprising a few highly interactive “hubs” such as parvalbumin and calmodulin. Conclusions Microstructural MRI maps of intracortical magnetization can be linked to both the behavioural traits of schizotypy and to prior histological data on dysregulated gene expression in schizophrenia.

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