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The genome-wide risk alleles for psychiatric disorders at 3p21.1 show convergent effects on mRNA expression, cognitive function, and mushroom dendritic spine

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (1)

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BPD) are believed to share clinical features, etiological factors, and disease pathologies (such as impaired cognitive functions and dendritic spine pathology). Meanwhile, there is growing evidence of shared genetic risk between schizophrenia and BPD, despite that our knowledge of the functional risk variations and biological mechanisms is still limited. Here, we conduct summary data-based Mendelian randomization (SMR) analyses through combining the statistical data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of both schizophrenia and BPD and multiple expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) datasets of the human brain dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) tissues. These integrative investigations identify a lead risk locus at the chromosome 3p21.1 region, which contains numerous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in varied linkage disequilibrium (LD) and encompasses more than 20 genes. Further analyses suggest that many SNPs at 3p21.1 are significantly associated with both schizophrenia and BPD, and even depression, and the psychiatric risk alleles at 3p21.1 are correlated with mRNA expression of multiple genes such as NEK4, GNL3, and PBRM1. We also identify a 335-bp functional Alu polymorphism rs71052682 in significant LD with the psychiatric GWAS risk SNP rs2251219, and confirm the regulatory effects of this Alu polymorphism on transcription activities. We then explore the involvement of the 3p21.1 locus in the common clinical features and etiology of these illnesses. We reveal that psychiatric risk alleles at 3p21.1 in low-to-high LD consistently predict worse cognitive functions in humans, and manipulating the gene expression (NEK4, GNL3, and PBRM1) linked with higher genetic risk could reduce the density of mushroom dendritic spines in rat primary cortical neurons, mirroring the spine pathology in the prefrontal cortex of psychiatric patients. Our results find that, although the risk alleles at 3p21.1 are in low-to-moderate LD spanning a large genomic area, their underlying biological mechanisms in psychiatric disorders likely converge. These results provide essential insights into the neural mechanisms underlying the chromosome 3p21.1 risk locus in the shared pathological and etiological features of both schizophrenia and BPD.

Microglial regional heterogeneity and its role in the brain

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (2)

Microglia have been recently shown to manifest a very interesting phenotypical heterogeneity across different regions in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). However, the underlying mechanism and functional meaning of this phenomenon are currently unclear. Baseline diversities of adult microglia in their cell number, cellular and subcellular structures, molecular signature as well as relevant functions have been discovered. But recent transcriptomic studies using bulk RNAseq and single-cell RNAseq have produced conflicting results on region-specific signatures of microglia. It is highly speculative whether such spatial heterogeneity contributes to varying sensitivities of individual microglia to the same physiological and pathological signals in different CNS regions, and hence underlie their functional relevance for CNS disease development. This review aims to thoroughly summarize up-to-date knowledge on this specific topic and provide some insights on the potential underlying mechanisms, starting from microgliogenesis. Understanding regional heterogeneity of microglia in the context of their diverse neighboring neurons and other glia may provide an important clue for future development of innovative therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders.

A presenilin-1 mutation causes Alzheimer disease without affecting Notch signaling

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (3)

Presenilin-1 (PSEN1) is the catalytic subunit of the gamma-secretase complex, and pathogenic mutations in the PSEN1 gene account for the majority cases of familial AD (FAD). FAD-associated mutant PSEN1 proteins have been shown to affect APP processing and A beta generation and inhibit Notch1 cleavage and Notch signaling. In this report, we found that a PSEN1 mutation (S169del) altered APP processing and A beta generation, and promoted neuritic plaque formation as well as learning and memory deficits in AD model mice. However, this mutation did not affect Notch1 cleavage and Notch signaling in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, we demonstrated that PSEN1(S169del) has distinct effects on APP processing and Notch1 cleavage, suggesting that Notch signaling may not be critical for AD pathogenesis and serine169 could be a critical site as a potential target for the development of novel gamma-secretase modulators without affecting Notch1 cleavage to treat AD.

CHIMGEN: a Chinese imaging genetics cohort to enhance cross-ethnic and cross-geographic brain research

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (3)

The Chinese Imaging Genetics (CHIMGEN) study establishes the largest Chinese neuroimaging genetics cohort and aims to identify genetic and environmental factors and their interactions that are associated with neuroimaging and behavioral phenotypes. This study prospectively collected genomic, neuroimaging, environmental, and behavioral data from more than 7000 healthy Chinese Han participants aged 18-30 years. As a pioneer of large-sample neuroimaging genetics cohorts of non-Caucasian populations, this cohort can provide new insights into ethnic differences in genetic-neuroimaging associations by being compared with Caucasian cohorts. In addition to micro-environmental measurements, this study also collects hundreds of quantitative macro-environmental measurements from remote sensing and national survey databases based on the locations of each participant from birth to present, which will facilitate discoveries of new environmental factors associated with neuroimaging phenotypes. With lifespan environmental measurements, this study can also provide insights on the macro-environmental exposures that affect the human brain as well as their timing and mechanisms of action.

The Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions (c-VEDA): an accelerated longitudinal cohort of children and adolescents in India

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (8)

The global burden of disease attributable to externalizing disorders such as alcohol misuse calls urgently for effective prevention and intervention. As our current knowledge is mainly derived from high-income countries such in Europe and North-America, it is difficult to address the wider socio-cultural, psychosocial context, and genetic factors in which risk and resilience are embedded in low- and medium-income countries. c-VEDA was established as the first and largest India-based multi-site cohort investigating the vulnerabilities for the development of externalizing disorders, addictions, and other mental health problems. Using a harmonised data collection plan coordinated with multiple cohorts in China, USA, and Europe, baseline data were collected from seven study sites between November 2016 and May 2019. Nine thousand and ten participants between the ages of 6 and 23 were assessed during this time, amongst which 1278 participants underwent more intensive assessments including MRI scans. Both waves of follow-ups have started according to the accelerated cohort structure with planned missingness design. Here, we present descriptive statistics on several key domains of assessments, and the full baseline dataset will be made accessible for researchers outside the consortium in September 2019. More details can be found on our website [].

Regulatory mechanisms of major depressive disorder risk variants

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (9)

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and a leading cause of disability worldwide. Though recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified multiple risk variants for MDD, how these variants confer MDD risk remains largely unknown. Here we systematically characterize the regulatory mechanism of MDD risk variants using a functional genomics approach. By integrating chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-Seq) (from human brain tissues or neuronal cells) and position weight matrix (PWM) data, we identified 34 MDD risk SNPs that disrupt the binding of 15 transcription factors (TFs). We verified the regulatory effect of the TF binding-disrupting SNPs with reporter gene assays, allelic-specific expression analysis, and CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis identified the target genes that might be regulated by these regulatory risk SNPs. Finally, we found that NEGR1 (regulated by the TF binding-disrupting MDD risk SNP rs3101339) was dysregulated in the brains of MDD cases compared with controls, implying that rs3101339 may confer MDD risk by affecting NEGR1 expression. Our findings reveal how genetic variants contribute to MDD risk by affecting TF binding and gene regulation. More importantly, our study identifies the potential MDD causal variants and their target genes, thus providing pivotal candidates for future mechanistic study and drug development.

Updated review of research on the gut microbiota and their relation to depression in animals and human beings

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (11)

The gut microbiota are being called the human "second brain," as they play a key role in the regulation of the central nervous system (CNS). Recent findings provide strong evidence for the presence of bidirectional communication networks between the gut microbiota and the CNS, and such crosstalk has been correlated with alterations in major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Further, germ-free animal models have been used to investigate the effect of the microbiota on MDD and other psychiatric disorders, which have greatly expanded our knowledge of the role of the microbiota in the etiology of MDD and promoted causality studies of this psychiatric disorder and others as well. In this review, we first introduce the methodological approaches used for microbiota research and then provide an overview of current research progress on the modulatory function and composition of the gut microbiota in MDD and the therapeutic effect of probiotics that has been gained using data from human studies as well as animal experiments. Future research should focus on identification and characterization of specific bacterial strains involved in MDD with the hope of applying these findings in the prevention and treatment of MDD.

Hippocampal mu-opioid receptors on GABAergic neurons mediate stress-induced impairment of memory retrieval

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (5)

Stressful life events induce abnormalities in emotional and cognitive behaviour. The endogenous opioid system plays an essential role in stress adaptation and coping strategies. In particular, the mu-opioid receptor (mu R), one of the major opioid receptors, strongly influences memory processing in that alterations in mu R signalling are associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders. However, it remains unclear whether mu R signalling contributes to memory impairments induced by acute stress. Here, we utilized pharmacological methods and cell-type-selective/non-cell-type-selective mu R depletion approaches combined with behavioural tests, biochemical analyses, and in vitro electrophysiological recordings to investigate the role of hippocampal mu R signalling in memory-retrieval impairment induced by acute elevated platform (EP) stress in mice. Biochemical and molecular analyses revealed that hippocampal mu Rs were significantly activated during acute stress. Blockage of hippocampal mu Rs, non-selective deletion of mu Rs or selective deletion of mu Rs on GABAergic neurons (mu R-GABA) reversed EP-stress-induced impairment of memory retrieval, with no effect on the elevation of serum corticosterone after stress. Electrophysiological results demonstrated that stress depressed hippocampal GABAergic synaptic transmission to CA1 pyramidal neurons, thereby leading to excitation/inhibition (E/I) imbalance in a mu R-GABA-dependent manner. Pharmaceutically enhancing hippocampal GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibitory currents in stressed mice restored their memory retrieval, whereas inhibiting those currents in the unstressed mice mimicked the stress-induced impairment of memory retrieval. Our findings reveal a novel pathway in which endogenous opioids recruited by acute stress predominantly activate mu R-GABA to depress GABAergic inhibitory effects on CA1 pyramidal neurons, which subsequently alters the E/I balance in the hippocampus and results in impairment of memory retrieval.

Mutations in ASH1L confer susceptibility to Tourette syndrome

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (2)

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by repetitive motor movements and vocal tics. The clinical manifestations of TS are complex and often overlap with other neuropsychiatric disorders. TS is highly heritable; however, the underlying genetic basis and molecular and neuronal mechanisms of TS remain largely unknown. We performed whole-exome sequencing of a hundred trios (probands and their parents) with detailed records of their clinical presentations and identified a risk gene, ASH1L, that was both de novo mutated and associated with TS based on a transmission disequilibrium test. As a replication, we performed follow-up targeted sequencing of ASH1L in additional 524 unrelated TS samples and replicated the association (P value = 0.001). The point mutations in ASH1L cause defects in its enzymatic activity. Therefore, we established a transgenic mouse line and performed an array of anatomical, behavioral, and functional assays to investigate ASH1L function. The Ash1l(+/-) mice manifested tic-like behaviors and compulsive behaviors that could be rescued by the tic-relieving drug haloperidol. We also found that Ash1l disruption leads to hyper-activation and elevated dopamine-releasing events in the dorsal striatum, all of which could explain the neural mechanisms for the behavioral abnormalities in mice. Taken together, our results provide compelling evidence that ASH1L is a TS risk gene.

Peripheral cytokine levels and response to antidepressant treatment in depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (2)

Predicting antidepressant treatment response has been a clinical challenge for major depressive disorder (MDD). The inflammation hypothesis of depression suggests that cytokines play a key role in the pathophysiology of MDD and alterations in peripheral cytokine levels are associated with antidepressant treatment outcome. Present meta-analysis aimed to examine the association between baseline peripheral cytokine levels and the response to antidepressant treatment and to evaluate whether changes of cytokine levels were associated with the response to antidepressant treatment in patients with MDD. Human-based studies published in any language in peer-reviewed journals were systematically searched from the PubMed, Embase and Web of Science databases, from inception up to October 2018. The search terms included cytokine, depressive disorder and antidepressant and their synonyms. Case-control or case-case studies reporting on levels of IL-1 beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, CRP, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, GM-CSF, MIP-1 alpha, and Eotaxin-1 in patients with MDD based on validated depression scales both before and after antidepressant treatment were included. Of 7408 identified records, 44 studies met inclusion. Standardized mean differences in each cytokine were evaluated, and random-effects meta-analyses were performed. MDD patients who responded to antidepressant treatment had lower baseline IL-8 levels than the nonresponders (Hedge's g = -0.28; 95%CI, -0.43 to -0.13; P = 0.0003; FDR = 0.004). Antidepressant treatment significantly decreased levels of TNF-alpha (Hedge's g = 0.60; 95%CI, 0.26-0.94; P = 0.0006; FDR = 0.004) only in responders, and responders showed significantly more decreased TNF-alpha levels compared with nonresponders (P = 0.046). These findings suggested that alterations in peripheral cytokine levels were associated with antidepressant treatment outcomes in MDD. Further investigations are warranted to elucidate sources of heterogeneity and examine the potentiality of using inflammatory cytokines as novel predictive markers for the pharmacological treatment of MDD.

Identifying biological markers for improved precision medicine in psychiatry

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (2)

Mental disorders represent an increasing personal and financial burden and yet treatment development has stagnated in recent decades. Current disease classifications do not reflect psychobiological mechanisms of psychopathology, nor the complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors, likely contributing to this stagnation. Ten years ago, the longitudinal IMAGEN study was designed to comprehensively incorporate neuroimaging, genetics, and environmental factors to investigate the neural basis of reinforcement-related behavior in normal adolescent development and psychopathology. In this article, we describe how insights into the psychobiological mechanisms of clinically relevant symptoms obtained by innovative integrative methodologies applied in IMAGEN have informed our current and future research aims. These aims include the identification of symptom groups that are based on shared psychobiological mechanisms and the development of markers that predict disease course and treatment response in clinical groups. These improvements in precision medicine will be achieved, in part, by employing novel methodological tools that refine the biological systems we target. We will also implement our approach in low- and medium-income countries to understand how distinct environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions influence the development of psychopathology. Together, IMAGEN and related initiatives strive to reduce the burden of mental disorders by developing precision medicine approaches globally.

Nuclear receptor corepressors in intellectual disability and autism

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (10)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by neurocognitive dysfunctions, such as impaired social interaction and language learning. Gene-environment interactions have a pivotal role in ASD pathogenesis. Nuclear receptor corepressors (NCORs) are transcription co-regulators physically associated with histone deacetylases (HDACs) and many known players in ASD etiology such as transducin beta-like 1 X-linked receptor 1 and methyl-CpG binding protein 2. The epigenome-modifying NCOR complex is sensitive to many ASD risk factors, including HDAC inhibitor valproic acid and a variety of endocrine factors, xenobiotic chemicals, or metabolites that can directly bind to multiple nuclear receptors. Here, we review recent studies of NCORs in neurocognition using animal models and human genetics approaches. We discuss functional interplays between NCORs and other known players in ASD etiology. It is conceivable that the NCOR complex may bridge the in utero environmental risk factors of ASD with epigenetic remodeling and can serve as a converging point for many gene-environment interactions in the pathogenesis of ASD and intellectual disability.

A brainstem-central amygdala circuit underlies defensive responses to learned threats

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (3)

Norepinephrine (NE) plays a central role in the acquisition of aversive learning via actions in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) [1, 2]. However, the function of NE in expression of aversively-conditioned responses has not been established. Given the role of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) in the expression of such behaviors [3-5], and the presence of NE axons projections in this brain nucleus [6], we assessed the effects of NE activity in the CeA on behavioral expression using receptor-specific pharmacology and cell- and projection-specific chemogenetic manipulations. We found that inhibition and activation of locus coeruleus (LC) neurons decreases and increases freezing to aversively conditioned cues, respectively. We then show that locally inhibiting or activating LC terminals in CeA is sufficient to achieve this bidirectional modulation of defensive reactions. These findings support the hypothesis that LC projections to CeA are critical for the expression of defensive responses elicited by conditioned threats.

Treatment response prediction and individualized identification of first-episode drug-naive schizophrenia using brain functional connectivity

期刊: MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 2020; 25 (4)

Identifying biomarkers in schizophrenia during the first episode without the confounding effects of treatment has been challenging. Leveraging these biomarkers to establish diagnosis and make individualized predictions of future treatment responses to antipsychotics would be of great value, but there has been limited progress. In this study, by using machine learning algorithms and the functional connections of the superior temporal cortex, we successfully identified the first-episode drug-naive (FEDN) schizophrenia patients (accuracy 78.6%) and predict their responses to antipsychotic treatment (accuracy 82.5%) at an individual level. The functional connections (FC) were derived using the mutual information and the correlations, between the blood-oxygen-level dependent signals of the superior temporal cortex and other cortical regions acquired with the resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. We also found that the mutual information and correlation FC was informative in identifying individual FEDN schizophrenia and prediction of treatment response, respectively. The methods and findings in this paper could provide a critical step toward individualized identification and treatment response prediction in first-episode drug-naive schizophrenia, which could complement other biomarkers in the development of precision medicine approaches for this severe mental disorder.

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