Spatial and temporal expression patterns of genes around nine neuroticism-associated loci
Neuroticism is a high-order personality trait. Individuals with higher neuroticism have increased risks of various psychiatric disorders and physical health outcomes. Neuroticism is related to physiological differences in the brain. A recent genome-wide association study identified nine distinct genomic loci that contribute to neuroticism. Brain development and function depend on the precise regulation of gene expression, which is differentially regulated across brain regions and developmental stages. Using multiple publicly available human post-mortem databases, we investigated, in brain and non-brain tissues and across several developmental life stages, the spatial and temporal expression patterns of genes arising from nine neuroticism-associated loci. Functional gene-network analysis for neuroticism-associated genes was performed. The spatial expression analysis revealed that the nearest genes (GRIK3, SRP9, KLHL2, PTPRD, ELAVL2, CRHR1 and CELF4) from index single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the nine loci were intensively enriched in the brain compared with their representation in non-brain tissues (p < 1.56 × 10− 3). The nearest genes associated with the glutamate receptor activity network consisted mainly of GRIK3 (FDR q = 4.25 × 10− 2). The temporal expression analysis revealed that the neuroticism-associated genes were divided into three expression patterns: KLHL2, CELF4 and CRHR1 were preferentially expressed during postnatal stages; PTPRD, ELAVL2 and MFHAS1 were expressed during prenatal stages; and the other three genes were not expressed during specific life stages. These findings suggest that the glutamate network might be a target for investigating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying susceptibilities to higher neuroticism and several psychiatric disorders and that neuroticism is mediated by genes specifically expressed in the brain during several developmental stages.