Developmental profile of psychiatric risk associated with voltage-gated cation channel activity

Nicholas E. Clifton, Leonardo Collado-Torres, Emily E. Burke, Antonio F. Pardiñas, Janet C. Harwood, Arianna Di Florio, James T.R. Walters, Michael J. Owen, Michael C. O’Donovan, Daniel Weinberger, Peter A. Holmans, Andrew E. Jaffe, Jeremy Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Recent breakthroughs in psychiatric genetics have implicated biological pathways onto which genetic risk for psychiatric disorders converges. However, these studies do not reveal the developmental time point(s) at which these pathways are relevant. Methods We aimed to determine the relationship between psychiatric risk and developmental gene expression relating to discrete biological pathways. We used post-mortem RNA sequencing data (BrainSeq and BrainSpan) from brain tissue at multiple pre- and post-natal timepoints and summary statistics from recent genome-wide association studies of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. We prioritised gene sets for overall enrichment of association with each disorder, and then tested the relationship between the association of each of their constituent genes with their relative expression at each developmental stage. Results We observed relationships between the expression of genes involved in voltage-gated cation channel activity during Early Midfetal, Adolescence and Early Adulthood timepoints and association with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, such that genes more strongly associated with these disorders had relatively low expression during Early Midfetal development and higher expression during Adolescence and Early Adulthood. The relationship with schizophrenia was strongest for the subset of genes related to calcium channel activity, whilst for bipolar disorder the relationship was distributed between calcium and potassium channel activity genes. Conclusions Our results indicate periods during development when biological pathways related to the activity of calcium and potassium channels may be most vulnerable to the effects of genetic variants conferring risk to psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, they indicate key time points and potential targets for disorder-specific therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Oct 21 2020


  • Brain development
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Genome-wide association studies
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Transcriptome
  • Voltage-gated cation channel activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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