We aimed to detect Attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) risk-conferring genes in adults. In children, ADHD is characterized by age-inappropriate levels of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity and may persists into adulthood. Childhood and adulthood ADHD are heritable, and are thought to represent the clinical extreme of a continuous distribution of ADHD symptoms in the general population. We aimed to leverage the power of studies of quantitative ADHD symptoms in adults who were genotyped. Within the SAGA (Study of ADHD trait genetics in adults) consortium, we estimated the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based heritability of quantitative self-reported ADHD symptoms and carried out a genome-wide association meta-analysis in nine adult population-based and case-only cohorts of adults. A total of n = 14,689 individuals were included. In two of the SAGA cohorts we found a significant SNP-based heritability for self-rated ADHD symptom scores of respectively 15% (n = 3656) and 30% (n = 1841). The top hit of the genome-wide meta-analysis (SNP rs12661753; p-value = 3.02 × 10 −7 ) was present in the long non-coding RNA gene STXBP5-AS1. This association was also observed in a meta-analysis of childhood ADHD symptom scores in eight population-based pediatric cohorts from the Early Genetics and Lifecourse Epidemiology (EAGLE) ADHD consortium (n = 14,776). Genome-wide meta-analysis of the SAGA and EAGLE data (n = 29,465) increased the strength of the association with the SNP rs12661753. In human HEK293 cells, expression of STXBP5-AS1 enhanced the expression of a reporter construct of STXBP5, a gene known to be involved in “SNAP” (Soluble NSF attachment protein) Receptor” (SNARE) complex formation. In mouse strains featuring different levels of impulsivity, transcript levels in the prefrontal cortex of the mouse ortholog Gm28905 strongly correlated negatively with motor impulsivity as measured in the five choice serial reaction time task (r 2 = − 0.61; p = 0.004). Our results are consistent with an effect of the STXBP5-AS1 gene on ADHD symptom scores distribution and point to a possible biological mechanism, other than antisense RNA inhibition, involved in ADHD-related impulsivity levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-285
Number of pages16
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


  • ADHD symptoms
  • Adults
  • GWAS
  • STXBP5-AS1 gene

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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