Aggression based genome-wide, glutamatergic, dopaminergic and neuroendocrine polygenic risk scores predict callous-unemotional traits

I. Hyun Ruisch*, Andrea Dietrich, Marieke Klein, Stephen V. Faraone, Jaap Oosterlaan, Jan K. Buitelaar, Pieter J. Hoekstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aggression and callous, uncaring, and unemotional (CU) traits are clinically related behavioral constructs caused by genetic and environmental factors. We performed polygenic risk score (PRS) analyses to investigate shared genetic etiology between aggression and these three CU-traits. Furthermore, we studied interactions of PRS with smoking during pregnancy and childhood life events in relation to CU-traits. Summary statistics for the base phenotype were derived from the EAGLE-consortium genome-wide association study of children’s aggressive behavior and were used to calculate individual-level genome-wide and gene-set PRS in the NeuroIMAGE target-sample. Target phenotypes were ‘callousness’, ‘uncaring’, and ‘unemotional’ sumscores of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional traits. A total of 779 subjects and 1,192,414 single-nucleotide polymorphisms were available for PRS-analyses. Gene-sets comprised serotonergic, dopaminergic, glutamatergic, and neuroendocrine signaling pathways. Genome-wide PRS showed evidence of association with uncaring scores (explaining up to 1.59% of variance; self-contained Q = 0.0306, competitive-P = 0.0015). Dopaminergic, glutamatergic, and neuroendocrine PRS showed evidence of association with unemotional scores (explaining up to 1.33, 2.00, and 1.20% of variance respectively; self-contained Q-values 0.037, 0.0115, and 0.0473 respectively, competitive-P-values 0.0029, 0.0002, and 0.0045 respectively). Smoking during pregnancy related to callousness scores while childhood life events related to both callousness and unemotionality. Moreover, dopaminergic PRS appeared to interact with childhood life events in relation to unemotional scores. Our study provides evidence suggesting shared genetic etiology between aggressive behavior and uncaring, and unemotional CU-traits in children. Gene-set PRS confirmed involvement of shared glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and neuroendocrine genetic variation in aggression and CU-traits. Replication of current findings is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-769
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

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