With >100 common variants associated with schizophrenia risk, establishing their biological significance is a priority. We sought to establish cognitive effects of risk variants at loci implicated in synaptic transmission by (1) identifying GWAS schizophrenia variants whose associated gene function is related to synaptic transmission, and (2) testing for association between these and measures of neurocognitive function. We selected variants, reported in the largest GWAS to date, associated with genes involved in synaptic transmission. Associations between genotype and cognitive test score were analyzed in a discovery sample (988 Irish participants, including 798 with psychosis), and replication samples (528 UK patients with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder; 921 German participants including 362 patients with schizophrenia). Three loci showed significant associations with neuropsychological performance in the discovery samples. This included an association between the rs2007044 (risk allele G) within CACNA1C and poorer working memory performance (increased errors-B [95% CI]=0.635-4.535, p=0.012), an effect driven mainly by the psychosis groups. In an fMRI analysis of working memory performance (n=84 healthy participants, a subset of the discovery sample), we further found evidence that the same CACNA1C allele was associated with decreased functional connectivity between the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right superior occipital gyrus/cuneus and anterior cingulate cortex. In conclusion, these data provide evidence to suggest that the CACNA1C risk variant rs2007044 is associated with poorer memory function that may result from risk carriers' difficulty with top down initiated responses caused by dysconnectivity between the right DLPFC and several cortical regions.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 13 June 2017. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.123.
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