October 22, 2020

Analysis of diffusion tensor imaging data from UK Biobank confirms dosage effect of 15q11.2 copy-number variation on white matter and shows association with cognition

Background: Copy-number variations at the 15q11.2 BP1-BP2 locus are present in 0.5 to 1.0% of the population, and the deletion is associated with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders. Previously, we showed a reciprocal effect of 15q11.2 copy-number variation on fractional anisotropy, with widespread increases in deletion carriers. We aim to replicate and expand these findings, using a larger sample of participants (n=30,930), higher resolution imaging, and examining the implications for cognitive performance. Methods: Diffusion tensor imaging measures from participants with no neurological/psychiatric diagnoses were obtained from the UK Biobank database. We compared 15q11.2 BP1-BP2 deletion (n=103) and duplication (n=119) carriers to a large cohort of control individuals with no neuropsychiatric copy-number variants (n=29,870). Additionally, we assessed how changes in white matter mediated the association between carrier status and cognitive performance. Results: Deletion carriers showed increases in fractional anisotropy in the internal capsule and cingulum, and decreases in the posterior thalamic radiation, compared to both duplication carriers and controls (who had intermediate values). Deletion carriers had lower scores across cognitive tasks compared to controls, which were mildly influenced by white matter alterations. Reduced fractional anisotropy in the posterior thalamic radiation partially contributed to worse cognitive performance in deletion carriers. Conclusions: This study, together with our previous findings, provides convergent evidence for a dosage-dependent effect of 15q11.2 BP1-BP2 on white matter microstructure. Additionally, changes in white matter were found to partially mediate cognitive ability in deletion carriers, providing a link between white matter changes in 15q11.2 BP1-BP2 carriers and cognitive function.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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