Systematic linkage disequilibrium (LD) mapping of 8p12-21 in the Icelandic population identified neuregulin 1 (NRG1) as a prime candidate gene for schizophrenia. However, results of replication studies have been inconsistent, and no large sample analyses have been reported. Therefore, we designed this study with the aim of assessing this putative association between schizophrenia and NRG1 (especially HAPICE region and exon region) using a gene-based association approach in the Japanese population. This study was a two-stage association analysis with a different panel of samples, in which the significant association found in the first-set screening samples (1126 cases and 1022 controls) was further assessed in the confirmation samples (1262 cases and 1172 controls, and 166 trio samples). In the first-set scan, 60 SNPs (49 tagging SNPs from HapMap database, four SNPs from other papers, and seven SNPs detected in the mutation scan) were examined. One haplotype showed a significant association in the first-set screening samples (Global P-value = 0.0244, uncorrected). However, we could not replicate this association in the following independent confirmation samples. Moreover, we could not find sufficient evidence for association of the haplotype identified as being significant in the first-set samples by imputing ungenotyped SNPs from HapMap database. These results indicate that the positionally and functionally attractive regions of NRG1 are unlikely to contribute to susceptibility to schizophrenia in the Japanese population. Moreover, the nature of our results support that two-stage analysis with large sample size is appropriate to examine the susceptibility genes for common diseases.
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