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Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Oct 25;6(10):e926. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.177.

SNP-based heritability estimates of the personality dimensions and polygenic prediction of both neuroticism and major depression: findings from CONVERGE.

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Departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Biometrical genetic studies suggest that the personality dimensions, including neuroticism, are moderately heritable (~0.4 to 0.6). Quantitative analyses that aggregate the effects of many common variants have recently further informed genetic research on European samples. However, there has been limited research to date on non-European populations. This study examined the personality dimensions in a large sample of Han Chinese descent (N=10 064) from the China, Oxford, and VCU Experimental Research on Genetic Epidemiology study, aimed at identifying genetic risk factors for recurrent major depression among a rigorously ascertained cohort. Heritability of neuroticism as measured by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) was estimated to be low but statistically significant at 10% (s.e.=0.03, P=0.0001). In addition to EPQ, neuroticism based on a three-factor model, data for the Big Five (BF) personality dimensions (neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness) measured by the Big Five Inventory were available for controls (n=5596). Heritability estimates of the BF were not statistically significant despite high power (>0.85) to detect heritabilities of 0.10. Polygenic risk scores constructed by best linear unbiased prediction weights applied to split-half samples failed to significantly predict any of the personality traits, but polygenic risk for neuroticism, calculated with LDpred and based on predictive variants previously identified from European populations (N=171 911), significantly predicted major depressive disorder case-control status (P=0.0004) after false discovery rate correction. The scores also significantly predicted EPQ neuroticism (P=6.3 × 10-6). Factor analytic results of the measures indicated that any differences in heritabilities across samples may be due to genetic variation or variation in haplotype structure between samples, rather than measurement non-invariance. Findings demonstrate that neuroticism can be significantly predicted across ancestry, and highlight the importance of studying polygenic contributions to personality in non-European populations.

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