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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Identifying gene regulatory networks in schizophrenia.

  • Author(s): Potkin, Steven G
  • Macciardi, Fabio
  • Guffanti, Guia
  • Fallon, James H
  • Wang, Qi
  • Turner, Jessica A
  • Lakatos, Anita
  • Miles, Michael F
  • Lander, Arthur
  • Vawter, Marquis P
  • Xie, Xiaohui
  • et al.

The imaging genetics approach to studying the genetic basis of disease leverages the individual strengths of both neuroimaging and genetic studies by visualizing and quantifying the brain activation patterns in the context of genetic background. Brain imaging as an intermediate phenotype can help clarify the functional link among genes, the molecular networks in which they participate, and brain circuitry and function. Integrating genetic data from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) with brain imaging as a quantitative trait (QT) phenotype can increase the statistical power to identify risk genes. A QT analysis using brain imaging (DLPFC activation during a working memory task) as a quantitative trait has identified unanticipated risk genes for schizophrenia. Several of these genes (RSRC1, ARHGAP18, ROBO1-ROBO2, GPC1, TNIK, and CTXN3-SLC12A2) have functions related to progenitor cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation, cytoskeleton reorganization, axonal connectivity, and development of forebrain structures. These genes, however, do not function in isolation but rather through gene regulatory networks. To obtain a deeper understanding how the GWAS-identified genes participate in larger gene regulatory networks, we measured correlations among transcript levels in the mouse and human postmortem tissue and performed a gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) that identified several microRNA associated with schizophrenia (448, 218, 137). The results of such computational approaches can be further validated in animal experiments in which the networks are experimentally studied and perturbed with specific compounds. Glypican 1 and FGF17 mouse models for example, can be used to study such gene regulatory networks. The model demonstrates epistatic interactions between FGF and glypican on brain development and may be a useful model of negative symptom schizophrenia.

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