Uncommon Protein-Coding Variants Associated With Suicide Attempt in a Diverse Sample of U.S. Army Soldiers

Matthew D. Wilkerson, Daniel Hupalo, Joshua C. Gray, Xijun Zhang, Jiawei Wang, Matthew J. Girgenti, Camille Alba, Gauthaman Sukumar, Nathaniel M. Lott, James A. Naifeh, Pablo Aliaga, Ronald C. Kessler, Clesson Turner, Harvey B. Pollard, Clifton L. Dalgard, Robert J. Ursano, Murray B. Stein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Suicide is a societal and public health concern of global scale. Identifying genetic risk factors for suicide attempt can characterize underlying biology and enable early interventions to prevent deaths. Recent studies have described common genetic variants for suicide-related behaviors. Here, we advance this search for genetic risk by analyzing the association between suicide attempt and uncommon variation exome-wide in a large, ancestrally diverse sample. Methods: We sequenced whole genomes of 13,584 soldiers from the Army STARRS (Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers), including 979 individuals with a history of suicide attempt. Uncommon, nonsilent protein–coding variants were analyzed exome-wide for association with suicide attempt using gene-collapsed and single-variant analyses. Results: We identified 19 genes with variants enriched in individuals with history of suicide attempt, either through gene-collapsed or single-variant analysis (Bonferroni padjusted < .05). These genes were CIB2, MLF1, HERC1, YWHAE, RCN2, VWA5B1, ATAD3A, NACA, EP400, ZNF585A, LYST, RC3H2, PSD3, STARD9, SGMS1, ACTR6, RGS7BP, DIRAS2, and KRTAP10-1. Most genes had variants across multiple genomic ancestry groups. Seventeen of these genes were expressed in healthy brain tissue, with 9 genes expressed at the highest levels in the brain versus other tissues. Brains from individuals deceased from suicide aberrantly expressed RGS7BP (padjusted = .035) in addition to nominally significant genes including YWHAE and ACTR6, all of which have reported associations with other mental disorders. Conclusions: These results advance the molecular characterization of suicide attempt behavior and support the utility of whole-genome sequencing for complementing the findings of genome-wide association studies in suicide research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number1
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Exome
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Military
  • Suicide
  • Whole-genome sequencing


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