Show/hide main menu


News Highlights

Genetic variants linked to bipolar disorder

Posted on 21/08/2012

Research led by the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London has identified genetic variants linked to signaling pathways in the brain likely to be involved in causing bipolar disorder. 

Dr. Gerome Breen, senior author of the study published in Biological Psychiatry and Senior Lecturer at the IoP at King’s, says: ‘Our study provides some of the first evidence to show the biochemical and developmental processes involved in causing risk for developing this life-long and costly illness. We have highlighted potential new avenues for new drug treatments and intervention.’

Certain disorders, like Huntington's disease, are caused by the mutation of a single gene. However, the biology and genetics of bipolar disorder are much more complex and the exact causes of bipolar disorder, which affects approximately 1 in 100 people in the UK, are not well understood. 

Researchers combined the results of three genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which examined the genetic variation throughout the genome of thousands of patients with bipolar disorder and healthy controls from the UK, Germany and the USA, and a study of gene expression patterns in post-mortem brain tissue from people who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The findings were also combined with information from protein databases (Human Protein Reference Database) to identify networks of genes and proteins in the brain that are key in the development of bipolar disorder. 

The findings revealed genes involved in several neural signaling pathways, including the Notch pathway, important in neurogenesis, and the Wnt signaling pathway which helps ensure genes are switched on. Together, the pathways are key processes in neurotransmission and brain development and the findings indicate they are also likely to be involved in causing bipolar disorder. 

“None of our research approaches provides us with sufficient information, by itself, to understand the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders. This innovative paper wrestles with this challenge in a creative way that helps us to move forward in thinking about the neurobiology of bipolar disorder,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

This research was supported by the European Community Health Seventh Framework Programme. The authors received funding from the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the South London and Maudsley National Health Service Foundation Trust and Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Full paper: Pedroso, I. et al. “Common Genetic Variants and Gene-Expression Changes Associated with Bipolar Disorder Are Over-Represented in Brain Signaling Pathway Genes” Biological Psychiatry, Volume 72, Issue 4 (August 15, 2012)

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, email: or tel: 0207 848 5377

News Highlights:

News Highlights...RSS FeedAtom Feed

Teenage cannabis use linked to decline in IQ

Teenage cannabis use linked to decline in IQ

New research from King's and Duke University (US) finds that persistent cannabis use during adolescence can cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory.
The London riots, a psychiatrist's perspective

The London riots, a psychiatrist's perspective

In August 2011, riots that started in London spread across England with widespread rioting, arson and looting. In a new paper, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's examine the events from a psychosocial point of view.
Two treatments for CFS/ME also cost-effective

Two treatments for CFS/ME also cost-effective

Two treatments found previously to be the most effective for patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have now been found to be the most cost-effective treatments, according to research led by King's.
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454