Despite proven heritability, little is known about the genetic architecture of mood disorders. Although a number of family and case–control studies have examined the genetics of mood disorders, none have carried out joint linkage-association studies and sought to validate the results with gene expression analyses in an independent cohort.
We present findings from a large candidate gene study that combines linkage and association analyses using families and singletons, providing a systematic candidate gene investigation of mood disorder. For this study, 876 individuals were recruited, including 83 families with 313 individuals and 563 singletons. This large-scale candidate gene analysis included 130 candidate genes implicated in addictive and other psychiatric disorders. These data showed significant genetic associations for 28 of these candidate genes, although none remained significant after correction for multiple testing. To evaluate the functional significance of these 28 candidate genes in mood disorders, we examined the transcriptional profiles of these genes within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate for 21 cases with mood disorders and 25 nonpsychiatric controls, and carried out a pathway analysis to identify points of high connectivity suggestive of particular molecular pathways that may be dysregulated.
Two primary gene candidates were supported by the linkage-association, gene expression profiling, and network analysis: neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor, type 2 (NTRK2), and the opioid receptor, κ1 (OPRK1).
This study supports a role for NTRK2 and OPRK1 signaling in the pathophysiology of mood disorder. The unique approach incorporating evidence from multiple experimental and computational modalities enhances confidence in these findings.
linkage and association; mood disorders; neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor; opioid receptor; type 2; κ1
Suicide is partly heritable but the responsible genes have not been identified. We conducted a gene-centric, low coverage single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) pilot genome-wide association study (GWAS) seeking new candidate regions in suicides with and without depression, combined with gene expression assay of brain tissue.
Ninety-nine Caucasian subjects, including 68 who completed suicide and 31 who died suddenly from other causes, were genotyped postmortem using GeneChip® Mapping 50K Xba. Clinical data were obtained from relatives. SNPs with Hardy – Weinberg equilibrium P values below 0.001 were excluded from analysis. Illumina chip expression arrays assayed the transcriptome in prefrontal cortex in a drug-free subgroup.
GWAS analysis (cutoff P < 0.001) yielded 58 SNPs, 22 of them in or near 19 known genes, with risk allele-associated odds ratios between 2.7 and 6.9. Diagnosis of mood disorder did not explain the associations. Some of the SNPs matched into four functional groups in gene ontology. Gene expression in the prefrontal and the anterior cingulate cortex for these 19 genes was measured on a separate, though overlapping, sample of suicides and seven of 19 genes showed altered expression in suicides as compared with controls, especially in immune system related genes.
Matching GWAS findings with expression data assesses functional effect of new candidate genes in suicide, and is an alternative form of confirmation or replication study. Results highlight a role for neuroimmunological effects in suicidal behaviour.
Suicide; genetics; mood disorders; single nucleotide polymorphism; psychological autopsy
The neuropathology of schizophrenia remains elusive. One indication of this elusiveness is that the literature, in contrast to that on the neuropathology of almost any other disease, deals predominantly with measures of normal structures rather than with the demonstration and characterization of pathological structures. An important exception to this trend has been the continued search, over four decades, for reactive glia. In this article, we review histological and radiological evidence for and against astrocytosis and microgliosis specifically associated with schizophrenia. The studies are generally limited by small samples, flawed designs, and potentially biased methods of counting cells. Interpretation of these studies is further complicated by the frequent presence of glial reactions in older individuals without psychiatric disease. Nonetheless, some of the positive findings in the literature cannot easily be dismissed. A sufficiently large autopsy study, weighted towards younger subjects, could provide a definitive answer, which if positive could be a major step towards finding an underlying pathological process.
human; positron emission tomography; microglia; astrocytes; peripheral benzodiazepine receptor; glial fibrillary acidic protein
Adult neurogenesis is coupled to angiogenesis in neurogenic niches in the dentate gyrus (DG) and increased by antidepressants in rodents. We hypothesized that, in major depressive disorder (MDD), antidepressants increase neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and capillaries in the human DG.
NPCs and capillaries, detected on hippocampal sections by immunohistochemistry for nestin, were quantified by stereology in matched MDDs (untreated, n=12), MDD treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (MDD*SSRI, n=6) or tricyclic antidepressants (MDD*TCA, n=6) and nonpsychiatric controls (n=12), all confirmed by psychological autopsy.
MDD*SSRI had a larger capillary area and more NPCs versus MDDs (p=.034 and p=.008, respectively) and controls (p=.010 and p=.002, respectively) in the whole DG, more NPCs in the anterior (pes, p=.042) and central (mid-body, p=.004) DG, and greater capillary area in the pes (p=.002) and mid-body (p=.021). NPC number and capillary area correlated positively in the whole sample (R2=.454, p<.001) and in treated subjects (R2=.749, p=.001). We found no NPCs or antidepressant-related angiogenesis in CA1 and parahippocampal gyrus. DG volume correlated positively with NPC number (p=.004) and capillary area (p<.001), and differed between groups in whole hippocampus (p=.013) and mid-body (p=.036). Age negatively correlated with NPC number (p=.042), capillary area (p=.037) and bifurcations (p=.030). No sex effect was detected.
Antidepressants increase human hippocampal NPCs and angiogenesis selectively in the anterior and mid DG. These results raise the possibility of a causal relationship between angiogenesis and neurogenesis, as seen in other proliferating tissues, and support their possible role in the mechanism of action of antidepressants.
neural progenitor cells; nestin; dentate gyrus; postmortem; stereology; immunohistochemistry
DNA methylation is implicated in mammalian brain development and plasticity underlying learning and memory. We report the genome-wide composition, patterning, cell specificity, and dynamics of DNA methylation at single-base resolution in human and mouse frontal cortex throughout their lifespan. Widespread methylome reconfiguration occurs during fetal to young adult development, coincident with synaptogenesis. During this period, highly conserved non-CG methylation (mCH) accumulates in neurons, but not glia, to become the dominant form of methylation in the human neuronal genome. Moreover, we found an mCH signature that identifies genes escaping X-chromosome inactivation. Last, whole-genome single-base resolution 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (hmC) maps revealed that hmC marks fetal brain cell genomes at putative regulatory regions that are CG-demethylated and activated in the adult brain and that CG demethylation at these hmC-poised loci depends on Tet2 activity.
DNA methylation is essential in brain function and behavior; therefore, understanding the role of DNA methylation in brain-based disorders begins with the study of DNA methylation profiles in normal brain. Determining the patterns and scale of methylation conservation and alteration in an evolutionary context enables the design of focused but effective methylation studies of disease states. We applied an enzymatic-based approach, Methylation Mapping Analysis by Paired-end Sequencing (Methyl-MAPS), which utilizes second-generation sequencing technology to provide an unbiased representation of genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of human and mouse brains. In this large-scale study, we assayed CpG methylation in cerebral cortex of neurologically and psychiatrically normal human postmortem specimens, as well as mouse forebrain specimens. Cross-species human-mouse DNA methylation conservation analysis shows that DNA methylation is not correlated with sequence conservation. Instead, greater DNA methylation conservation is correlated with increasing CpG density. In addition to CpG density, these data show that genomic context is a critical factor in DNA methylation conservation and alteration signatures throughout mammalian brain evolution. We identify key genomic features that can be targeted for identification of epigenetic loci that may be developmentally and evolutionarily conserved and wherein aberrations in DNA methylation patterns can confer risk for disease.
DNA methylation; comparative epigenetics; evolutionary conservation; human brain; mouse brain; prefrontal cortex; auditory cortex; CpG island shore
Postmortem and in vivo studies of schizophrenia frequently reveal reduced cortical volume, but the underlying cellular abnormalities are incompletely defined. One influential hypothesis, especially investigated in Brodmann’s area 9 of prefrontal cortex, is that the number of neurons is normal, and the volume change is caused by reduction of the surrounding neuropil. However, studies have differed on whether the cortex has the increased neuron density that is predicted by this hypothesis. In a recent study of bilateral planum temporale (PT), we reported smaller volume and width of the outer cortex (layers I-III), especially in the left hemisphere, among subjects with schizophrenia. In the present study, we measured neuron density and size in the same PT samples, and also in prefrontal area 9 of the same brains. In the PT, separate stereological measurements were made in layers II, IIIc, and VI, whereas area 9 was sampled in layer IIIb-c. In both cortical regions, there was no significant effect of schizophrenia on neuronal density or size. There was, nevertheless, a trend-level right>left hemispheric asymmetry of neuron density in the PT, which may partially explain the previously reported left>right asymmetry of cortical width. In schizophrenia, our findings suggest that closer packing of neurons may not always explain reduced cortical volume, and subtly decreased neuron number may be a contributing factor.
Auditory cortex; stereology; cytoarchitectonic; cortex width; hemispheric asymmetry; neuropathology
Recent studies have indicated a gene by environment interaction between serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism and childhood abuse on depressive symptoms. In addition, persistent elevation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) concentrations following early-life adversity has been posited to underlie the subsequent development of major depression. This pilot study tested the hypothesis that elevations of juvenile CSF CRF concentrations are, in part, determined by an interaction between polymorphisms of the 5-HTTLPR and early-life stress. Nine juvenile male bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) had been raised under variable foraging demand (VFD) conditions, a nonhuman primate model of early-life stress, whereas nine subjects were normatively raised under LFD (low foraging demand) conditions. Genotyping revealed that four (44.4%) of the VFD-reared monkeys possessed at least one “s” allele whereas five VFD monkeys were of the l/l genotype. Of the nine LFD subjects, two (22%) had the s/l genotype and seven had the l/l genotype. A “juvenile” CSF sample was obtained at approximately three years of age. CSF CRF concentrations were elevated specifically in the VFD “s/s” and “s/l” allele group in comparison to each of the remaining three groups, indicating a gene by environment (GxE) interaction.
Nonhuman primates; corticotropin-releasing hormone; early-life stress; serotonin transporter gene; major depression; anxiety disorders; gene by environment interaction
We tested the hypothesis that early life stress would persistently compromise neuronal viability of the hippocampus of the grown nonhuman primate. Neuronal viability was assessed through ascertainment of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) – an amino acid considered reflective of neuronal density/functional integrity – using in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). The subjects reported herein represent a re-analysis of a sample of nineteen adult male bonnet macaques that had been reared in infancy under induced stress by maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) (N = 10) or control rearing conditions (N = 9). The MRSI spectral readings were recorded using a GE 1.5 Tesla machine under anesthesia. Relative NAA values were derived using NAA as numerator and both choline (Cho) or creatine (Cr) as denominators. Left medial temporal lobe (MTL) NAA/Cho but not NAA/Cr was decreased in VFD subjects versus controls. An MTL NAA/Cho ratio deficit remained significant when controlling for multiple confounding variables. Regression analyses suggested that the NAA/Choline finding was due to independently low left NAA and high left choline. Right MTL showed no rearing effects for NAA, but right NAA was positively related to body mass, irrespective of denominator. The current data indicate that decreased left MTL NAA/Cho may reflect low neuronal viability of the hippocampus following early life stress in VFD-reared versus normally-reared subjects. Given the importance of the hippocampus in stress-mediated toxicity, validation of these data using absolute quantification is suggested and correlative neurohistological studies of hippocampus are warranted.
Early-Life Stress; Nonhuman Primate; Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Hippocampus; N-Acetyl-Aspartate; Brain laterality
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) may be effective in treating depression. Parental verbal abuse has been linked to decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and reduced FA correlated with depression and anxiety scores. Utilizing a nonhuman primate model of mood and anxiety disorders following disrupted mother-infant attachment, we examined whether adverse rearing conditions lead to white matter impairment of the ALIC.
We examined white matter integrity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) on a 3T-MRI. Twenty-one adult male Bonnet macaques participated in this study: 12 were reared under adverse [variable foraging demand (VFD)] conditions whereas 9 were reared under normative conditions. We examined ALIC, posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and occipital white matter.
VFD rearing was associated with significant reductions in FA in the ALIC with no changes evident in the PLIC or occipital cortex white matter.
Adverse rearing in monkeys persistently impaired frontal white matter tract integrity, a novel substrate for understanding affective susceptibility.
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand
Rodent studies show that neurogenesis is necessary for mediating the salutary effects of antidepressants. Nonhuman primate (NHP) studies may bridge important rodent findings to the clinical realm since NHP-depression shares significant homology with human depression and kinetics of primate neurogenesis differ from those in rodents. After demonstrating that antidepressants can stimulate neurogenesis in NHPs, our present study examines whether neurogenesis is required for antidepressant efficacy in NHPs.
Adult female bonnets were randomized to three social pens (N = 6 each). Pen-1 subjects were exposed to control-conditions for 15 weeks with half receiving the antidepressant fluoxetine and the rest receiving saline-placebo. Pen-2 subjects were exposed to 15 weeks of separation-stress with half receiving fluoxetine and half receiving placebo. Pen-3 subjects 2 weeks of irradiation (N = 4) or sham-irradiation (N = 2) and then exposed to 15 weeks of stress and fluoxetine. Dependent measures were weekly behavioral observations and postmortem neurogenesis levels.
Exposing NHPs to repeated separation stress resulted in depression-like behaviors (anhedonia and subordinance) accompanied by reduced hippocampal neurogenesis. Treatment with fluoxetine stimulated neurogenesis and prevented the emergence of depression-like behaviors. Ablation of neurogenesis with irradiation abolished the therapeutic effects of fluoxetine. Non-stressed controls had normative behaviors although the fluoxetine-treated controls had higher neurogenesis rates. Across all groups, depression-like behaviors were associated with decreased rates of neurogenesis but this inverse correlation was only significant for new neurons in the anterior dentate gyrus that were at the threshold of completing maturation.
We provide evidence that induction of neurogenesis is integral to the therapeutic effects of fluoxetine in NHPs. Given the similarity between monkeys and humans, hippocampal neurogenesis likely plays a similar role in the treatment of clinical depression. Future studies will examine several outstanding questions such as whether neuro-suppression is sufficient for producing depression and whether therapeutic neuroplastic effects of fluoxetine are specific to antidepressants.
Abnormalities of amount and function of presynaptic terminals may have an important role in the mechanism of illness in schizophrenia. The SNARE proteins (SNAP-25, syntaxin, and VAMP) are enriched in presynaptic terminals, where they interact to form a functional complex to facilitate vesicle fusion. SNARE protein amounts are altered in the cortical regions in schizophrenia, but studies of protein–protein interactions are limited. We extended these investigations to the striatal regions (such as the nucleus accumbens, ventromedial caudate (VMC), and dorsal caudate) relevant to disease symptoms. In addition to measuring SNARE protein levels, we studied SNARE protein–protein interactions using a novel ELISA method. The possible effect of antipsychotic treatment was investigated in parallel in the striatum of rodents that were administered haloperidol and clozapine. In schizophrenia samples, compared with controls, SNAP-25 was 32% lower (P=0.015) and syntaxin was 26% lower (P=0.006) in the VMC. In contrast, in the same region, SNARE protein–protein interactions were higher in schizophrenia (P=0.008). Confocal microscopy of schizophrenia and control VMC showed qualitatively similar SNARE protein immunostaining. Haloperidol treatment of rats increased levels of SNAP-25 (mean 24%, P=0.003), syntaxin (mean 18%, P=0.010), and VAMP (mean 16%, P=0.001), whereas clozapine increased only the VAMP level (mean 13%, P=0.004). Neither drug altered SNARE protein–protein interactions. These results indicate abnormalities of amount and interactions of proteins directly related to presynaptic function in the VMC in schizophrenia. SNARE proteins and their interactions may be a novel target for the development of therapeutics.
SNAREs; schizophrenia; striatum; postmortem; protein interactions; SNAP-25; Schizophrenia/Antipsychotics; Plasticity; Neurochemistry; Neuropharmacology; SNARE proteins
Anatomical evidence of brain damage from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is lacking, but there are no modern stereological studies in primates documenting its safety. Magnetic seizure therapy (MST) is under development as a less invasive form of convulsive therapy, and there is only one prior report on its anatomical effects. We discerned no histological lesions in the brains of higher mammals subjected to electroconvulsive shock (ECS) or MST, under conditions that model closely those used in humans. We sought to extend these findings by determining whether these interventions affected the number of neurons or glia in the frontal cortex or hippocampus.
Twenty-four animals received 6 weeks of ECS, MST, or anesthesia alone, 4 days per week. After perfusion fixation, numbers of neurons and glia in frontal cortex and hippocampus were determined by unbiased stereological methods.
We found no effect of either intervention on volumes or total number or numerical density of neurons or glia in hippocampus, frontal cortex, or subregions of these structures.
Induction of seizures in a rigorous model of human ECT and MST therapy does not cause a change in the number of neurons or glia in potentially vulnerable regions of brain. This study, while limited to young, healthy, adult subjects, provides further evidence that ECT and MST, when appropriately applied, do not cause structural damage to the brain.
Stereology; Frontal cortex; Hippocampus; Antidepressant; Transcranial magnetic stimulation
In vivo structural MRI studies in schizophrenia auditory cerebral cortex have reported smaller volumes, and less consistently have reported altered hemispheric asymmetry of volumes. We used autopsy brains from 19 schizophrenia and 18 nonpsychiatric male subjects to measure the volume asymmetry of the planum temporal (PT). We then used the most recently autopsied 11 schizophrenia and 10 non-psychiatric brains to measure the widths and fractional volumes of the upper (I–III) and lower (IV–VI) layers. Measurements of whole PT gray matter volumes did not show significant changes in schizophrenia. Nevertheless, laminar volume measurements revealed that the upper layers of the PT comprise a smaller fraction of the total cortex in schizophrenia than in nonpsychiatric brains. Subdivision of the PT showed that this change was especially prominent caudally, beyond Heschl’s gyrus, whereas similar but less pronounced changes were found in the rostral PT and Heschl’s gyrus. Complementary measures of laminar widths showed that the altered fractional volume in the caudal left PT was due mainly to about 8% thinner upper layers. However, the caudal right PT had a different profile, with thicker lower layers and comparatively unchanged upper layers. Thus, in the present study, laminar measurements provided a more sensitive method to detect changes than measurement of whole PT volumes. Besides findings in schizophrenia, our cortical width measurements also revealed normal hemispheric asymmetries consistent with previous reports. In schizophrenia, the thinner upper layers of the caudal PT suggest disrupted cortico-cortical processing, possibly affecting the multisensory integration and phonetic processing of this region.
Emerging evidence suggests that DNA methylation plays an expansive role in the central nervous system (CNS). Large-scale whole genome DNA methylation profiling of the normal human brain offers tremendous potential in understanding the role of DNA methylation in brain development and function.
Using methylation-sensitive SNP chip analysis (MSNP), we performed whole genome DNA methylation profiling of the prefrontal, occipital, and temporal regions of cerebral cortex, as well as cerebellum. These data provide an unbiased representation of CpG sites comprising 377,509 CpG dinucleotides within both the genic and intergenic euchromatic region of the genome. Our large-scale genome DNA methylation profiling reveals that the prefrontal, occipital, and temporal regions of the cerebral cortex compared to cerebellum have markedly different DNA methylation signatures, with the cerebral cortex being hypermethylated and cerebellum being hypomethylated. Such differences were observed in distinct genomic regions, including genes involved in CNS function. The MSNP data were validated for a subset of these genes, by performing bisulfite cloning and sequencing and confirming that prefrontal, occipital, and temporal cortices are significantly more methylated as compared to the cerebellum.
These findings are consistent with known developmental differences in nucleosome repeat lengths in cerebral and cerebellar cortices, with cerebrum exhibiting shorter repeat lengths than cerebellum. Our observed differences in DNA methylation profiles in these regions underscores the potential role of DNA methylation in chromatin structure and organization in CNS, reflecting functional specialization within cortical regions.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) increase neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of rodents and nonhuman primates. We determined whether SSRIs or TCAs increase neural progenitor (NPCs) and dividing cells in the human DG in major depressive disorder (MDD).
Whole frozen hippocampi from untreated subjects with MDD (N = 5), antidepressant-treated MDD (MDDT, N = 7), and controls (C, N = 7) were fixed, sectioned and immunostained for NPCs and dividing cell markers (nestin and Ki-67 respectively), NeuN and GFAP, in single and double labeling. NPC and dividing cell numbers in the DG were estimated by stereology. Clinical data were obtained by psychological autopsy and toxicological and neuropathological examination performed in all subjects.
NPCs decreased with age (p = 0.034). Females had more NPCs than males (p = 0.023). Correcting for age and sex, MDDT receiving SSRIs had more NPCs than untreated MDD (p ≤ 0.001) and controls (p ≤ 0.001), NPCs were not different in SSRIs- and TCAs-treated MDDT (p = 0.169). Dividing cell number, unaffected by age or sex, was greater in MDDT receiving TCAs than in untreated MDD (p ≤ 0.001), SSRI-treated MDD (p = 0.001) and controls (p ≤ 0.001). The NPCs and dividing cells increase in MDDT was localized to the rostral DG. MDDT had a larger DG volume compared with untreated MDD or controls (p = 0.009).
Antidepressants increase neural progenitor cell number in the anterior human dentate gyrus. Whether this finding is critical or necessary for the antidepressants effect remains to be determined.
Adult neurogenesis; Ki-67; nestin; major depressive disorder; SSRIs; tricyclic antidepressants
Neuregulin-1 (Nrg1)/erbB signaling regulates neuronal development, migration, myelination, and synaptic maintenance. The Nrg1 gene is a schizophrenia susceptibility gene. To understand the contribution of Nrg1 signaling to adult brain structure and behaviors, we have studied the regulation of Type III Nrg1 expression and evaluated the effect of decreased expression of the Type III Nrg1 isoforms. Type III Nrg1 is transcribed by a promoter distinct from those for other Nrg1 isoforms and, in the adult brain, is expressed in the medial prefrontal cortex, ventral hippocampus and ventral subiculum, regions involved in the regulation of sensorimotor gating and short term memory. Adult heterozygous mutant mice with a targeted disruption for Type III Nrg1 (Nrg1tm1.1Lwr+/-) have enlarged lateral ventricles and decreased dendritic spine density on subicular pyramidal neurons. MRI imaging of Type III Nrg1 heterozygous mice revealed hypo-function in the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampal CA1 and subiculum regions. Type III Nrg1 heterozygous mice also have impaired performance on delayed alternation memory tasks, and deficits in prepulse inhibition (PPI). Chronic nicotine treatment eliminated differences in PPI between Type III Nrg1 heterozygous mice and their wild type littermates. Our findings demonstrate a role of Type III Nrg1-signaling in the maintenance of cortico-striatal components, and in the neural circuits involved in sensorimotor gating and short term memory.
lateral ventricle; dendritic spine; cerebral blood volume; memory; prepulse inhibition; schizophrenia