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We examined whether common variants from the extended major histocompatibility complex (xMHC) region contribute to the response to antipsychotic drugs (APDs) in patients with schizophrenia with persistent psychosis. Subjects participated in a prospective longitudinal study of the effect of APDs on psychopathology were temporally split into discovery (n = 88) and replication (n = 42) cohorts. The primary endpoint was a change in Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale at 6-week or 6-month after treatment. rs204991 (β = 3.917, p = 3.72 × 10−6), the strongest signal associated with response at 6-week was located near C4A/C4B after a linear regression adjusted for covariates. xMHC SNP imputation disclosed much stronger signals (rs9268469, β = 5.140, p = 1.57 × 10−7) and other weaker signals (p < 1 × 10−5) spanning the entire xMHC region. All the variants were previously identified schizophrenia risk loci. Conditional fine-mapping revealed three subgroups of SNPs which were the eQTLs (p < 1 × 10−7) for C4A, HLA-C, and BTN3A2 in disease-relevant tissue. Epistasis between HLA-C and C4A was observed (p = 0.019). Minor allele (G) carriers of rs204991, eQTL for C4A, having decreased risk for schizophrenia and lower imputed expression of C4A, had a better response to APDs. Some imputed HLA alleles associated with a decreased risk for schizophrenia had a positive association with improvement in psychotic symptoms. An independent cohort validated the association of change in psychosis with C4A. We provide evidence that genetic risk factors for schizophrenia from the xMHC region are associated with response to APDs and those variants significantly alter the imputed expression of C4A, HLA-C, and BTN3A2. The minor alleles predicting higher C4A level are associated with diminished improvement in psychotic symptoms after APD treatment.


© The Author(s) 2022

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

Transl Psychiatry



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Mentor/PI Department




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