Rare DNA variants in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene increase risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a next-generation sequencing study

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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent and highly heritable disorder of childhood with negative lifetime outcomes. Although candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have identified promising common variant signals, these explain only a fraction of the heritability of ADHD. The observation that rare structural variants confer substantial risk to psychiatric disorders suggests that rare variants might explain a portion of the missing heritability for ADHD. Here we believe we performed the first large-scale next-generation targeted sequencing study of ADHD in 152 child and adolescent cases and 188 controls across an a priori set of 117 genes. A multi-marker gene-level analysis of rare (< 1% frequency) single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) revealed that the gene encoding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was associated with ADHD at Bonferroni corrected levels. Sanger sequencing confirmed the existence of all novel rare BDNF variants. Our results implicate BDNF as a genetic risk factor for ADHD, potentially by virtue of its critical role in neurodevelopment and synaptic plasticity.

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