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Study Sheds Light on Genetic Foundation of Migraines

Summary: Researchers have identified three genes linked to hemiplegic migraine.

Source: Cell Press.


The nauseating, often debilitating, headaches affect 15-20 percent of adults in developed countries, yet they remain stubbornly hard to explain. Scientists know that migraines tend to run in families but aren’t sure exactly how.

A new study published May 3 in the journal Neuron shows why some families are susceptible to migraines and how genetics may influence the type of migraine they get.

“For a long time, we have been wondering why common disease (like migraines) aggregates in families,” said Aarno Palotie of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

Previous migraine research identified two ways migraines might run in families. Linkage studies, which track sections of chromosomes passed down from parent to child, identified three genes (CACNA1A, ATP1A2 and SCN1A) associated to hemiplegic migraine, a severe form of migraine that induces stroke-like symptoms. These genes fall under a Mendelian inheritance model, meaning the two copies of a gene a child inherits from his or her parents determine a trait or disease. Sickle cell anemia could be thought of as Mendelian.

Another way migraines could run in families involves polygenic inheritance. If a trait is polygenic, that means that a group of genes collectively influence that characteristic. Like being dealt a bad hand in a card game, each common genetic variant may have only a small individual effect, but the collection of common variants builds up to influence the trait–or disease risk–a person inherits. Height is an example of a polygenic trait.

Palotie and his colleagues set out to find out whether a few, powerful Mendelian genes or a polygenic accumulation of common variants–or a combination of both–influenced how migraines are inherited in families.

First, the researchers developed a polygenic risk score to estimate the genetic burden of common variants. To do this, they gathered data from a previous genome-wide association study, which is a type of study that compares genomes of individuals and flags loci (locations on chromosomes) that differ in people with a disease. In all, hundreds (possibly even thousands) of loci linked to migraines were incorporated into the polygenic risk score.

Next, the researchers tested the influence of the polygenic risk score and the three known Mendelian migraine-linked genes within a large family study of migraine sufferers in Finland. The study included medical history and genetic data of 1,589 families (made up of 8,319 individuals) of known migraine sufferers. The family migraine cohort was compared against other large cohorts as a control, such as the FINRISK study that had 14,470 people total, including 1,101 people with migraine.

Result after result showed that the polygenic common variants were driving migraine risk more than the three Mendelian genes. If a person’s migraines started at an earlier age, if a person experienced more severe migraines, or if migraines ran in a person’s family, the data showed that it’s more likely that person had a greater genetic burden of common polygenic variants to blame.

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Result after result showed that the polygenic common variants were driving migraine risk more than the three Mendelian genes. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

“The strength of the common variants in these families surprised us,” said Palotie.

On the other hand, the three rare but powerful Mendelian genes linked to migraine didn’t seem to influence migraine risk as much as the researchers expected. Out of the large family study, researchers identified 45 families with hemiplegic migraine and sequenced their genes. Migraines in only four out of 45 families were driven by the rare Mendelian genes–more cases were driven by common variants.

“This really shows, in a very big sample set, that common variants are very important factors in aggregation of migraines in the family,” said Palotie.

Palotie believes more genome sequencing and larger studies will help researchers find both more common variants linked to migraines and more Mendelian variants.

“This is of special interest for drug development,” said Palotie. Even if Mendelian variants don’t drive the majority of migraine cases, scientists can research how these genes impact biological pathways responsible for migraine symptoms and potentially develop drugs to target those pathways.

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: This study was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Academy of Finland, the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence for Complex Disease Genetics, the EuroHead project, EUROHEADPAIN, the ENGAGE Consortium, EU/SYNSYS-Synaptic Systems, the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, the Nordic Information for Action eScience Center (NIASC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NIH Genomic strategies to identify high-impact psychiatric risk variants, the Folkhälsan Research Foundation, Medicinska Understödsföreningen Liv & Hälsa in Finland, the Helsinki University Central Hospital, the Swedish Research Foundation, the Swedish Brain Foundation, the Karolinska Institutet Research Funds, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals, the Juho Vainio Foundation, the Paavo Nurmi Foundation, the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation, the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, the Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association, and a EU Horizon 2020 grant. The work was further supported by funding from Merck and Co.

Source: Joseph Caputo – Cell Press
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access research for “Common Variant Burden Contributes to the Familial Aggregation of Migraine in 1,589 Families” by Padhraig Gormley, Mitja I. Kurki, Marjo Eveliina Hiekkala, Kumar Veerapen, Paavo Häppölä, Adele A. Mitchell, Dennis Lal, Priit Palta, Ida Surakka, Mari Anneli Kaunisto, Eija Hämäläinen, Salli Vepsäläinen, Hannele Havanka, Hanna Harno, Matti Ilmavirta, Markku Nissilä, Erkki Säkö, Marja-Liisa Sumelahti, Jarmo Liukkonen, Matti Sillanpää, Liisa Metsähonkala, Seppo Koskinen, Terho Lehtimäki, Olli Raitakari, Minna Männikkö, Caroline Ran, Andrea Carmine Belin, Pekka Jousilahti, Verneri Anttila, Veikko Salomaa, Ville Artto, Markus Färkkilä, 23andMe Research Team, International Headache Genetics Consortium (IHGC), Heiko Runz, Mark J. Daly, Benjamin M. Neale, Samuli Ripatti, Mikko Kallela, Maija Wessman, and Aarno Palotie in Neuron. Published May 3 2018.
doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2018.04.014

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Cell Press “Study Sheds Light on Genetic Foundation of Migraines.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 3 May 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-migraines-8953/>.
Cell Press (2018, May 3). Study Sheds Light on Genetic Foundation of Migraines. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved May 3, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-migraines-8953/
Cell Press “Study Sheds Light on Genetic Foundation of Migraines.” http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-migraines-8953/ (accessed May 3, 2018).

Abstract

Common Variant Burden Contributes to the Familial Aggregation of Migraine in 1,589 Families

Highlights
•Polygenic risk scores (PRS) implicated in familial aggregation of complex disease
•PRS explains more phenotypic variance in familial cases than in population cases
•Evidence suggests greater role for polygenic load in familial aggregation than rare variants
•Higher PRS associated with symptoms of migraine severity and earlier age of onset

Summary
Complex traits, including migraine, often aggregate in families, but the underlying genetic architecture behind this is not well understood. The aggregation could be explained by rare, penetrant variants that segregate according to Mendelian inheritance or by the sufficient polygenic accumulation of common variants, each with an individually small effect, or a combination of the two hypotheses. In 8,319 individuals across 1,589 migraine families, we calculated migraine polygenic risk scores (PRS) and found a significantly higher common variant burden in familial cases (n = 5,317, OR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.71–1.81, p = 1.7 × 10−109) compared to population cases from the FINRISK cohort (n = 1,101, OR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.25–1.38, p = 7.2 × 10−17). The PRS explained 1.6% of the phenotypic variance in the population cases and 3.5% in the familial cases (including 2.9% for migraine without aura, 5.5% for migraine with typical aura, and 8.2% for hemiplegic migraine). The results demonstrate a significant contribution of common polygenic variation to the familial aggregation of migraine.

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