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1.  Hemispheric asymmetry of primary auditory cortex and Heschl’s gyrus in schizophrenia and nonpsychiatric brains 
Psychiatry research  2013;214(3):10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.08.009.
Heschl’s gyrus (HG) is reported to have a normal left>right hemispheric volume asymmetry, and reduced asymmetry in schizophrenia. Primary auditory cortex (A1) occupies the caudal-medial surface of HG, but it is unclear if A1 has normal asymmetry, or whether its asymmetry is altered in schizophrenia. To address these issues, we compared bilateral gray matter volumes of HG and A1, and neuron density and number in A1, in autopsy brains from male subjects with or without schizophrenia. Comparison of diagnostic groups did not reveal altered gray matter volumes, neuron density, neuron number or hemispheric asymmetries in schizophrenia. With respect to hemispheric differences, HG displayed a clear left>right asymmetry of gray matter volume. Area A1 occupied nearly half of HG, but had less consistent volume asymmetry, that was clearly present only in a subgroup of archival brains from elderly subjects. Neuron counts, in layers IIIb-c and V-VI, showed that the A1 volume asymmetry reflected differences in neuron number, and was not caused simply by changes in neuron density. Our findings confirm previous reports of striking hemispheric asymmetry of HG, and additionally show evidence that A1 has a corresponding asymmetry, although less consistent than that of HG.
PMCID: PMC3851973  PMID: 24148910
cerebral cortex; human; postmortem; stereology; neuron number
2.  Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 as Predictor of Body Mass Index and Dentate Gyrus Neurogenesis: Neuroplasticity and the Metabolic Milieu 
Neural Plasticity  2014;2014:917981.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) regulates carbohydrate metabolism and promotes neurogenesis. We reported an inverse correlation between adult body mass and neurogenesis in nonhuman primates. Here we examine relationships between physiological levels of the neurotrophic incretin, plasma GLP-1 (pGLP-1), and body mass index (BMI) in adolescence to adult neurogenesis and associations with a diabesity diathesis and infant stress. Morphometry, fasting pGLP-1, insulin resistance, and lipid profiles were measured in early adolescence in 10 stressed and 4 unstressed male bonnet macaques. As adults, dentate gyrus neurogenesis was assessed by doublecortin staining. High pGLP-1, low body weight, and low central adiposity, yet peripheral insulin resistance and high plasma lipids, during adolescence were associated with relatively high adult neurogenesis rates. High pGLP-1 also predicted low body weight with, paradoxically, insulin resistance and high plasma lipids. No rearing effects for neurogenesis rates were observed. We replicated an inverse relationship between BMI and neurogenesis. Adolescent pGLP-1 directly predicted adult neurogenesis. Two divergent processes relevant to human diabesity emerge—high BMI, low pGLP-1, and low neurogenesis and low BMI, high pGLP-1, high neurogenesis, insulin resistance, and lipid elevations. Diabesity markers putatively reflect high nutrient levels necessary for neurogenesis at the expense of peripheral tissues.
PMCID: PMC4259073  PMID: 25506432
3.  Searching for Neuropathology: Gliosis in Schizophrenia 
Biological psychiatry  2010;69(2):134-139.
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.
PMCID: PMC3593070  PMID: 21035789
human; positron emission tomography; microglia; astrocytes; peripheral benzodiazepine receptor; glial fibrillary acidic protein
4.  Metabolic abnormalities in fronto-striatal-thalamic white matter tracts in schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia research  2009;109(0):159-166.
The anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) is the major white matter tract providing reciprocal connections between the frontal cortex, striatum and thalamus. Mounting evidence suggests that this tract may be affected in schizophrenia, with brain imaging studies reporting reductions in white matter volume and density, changes in fractional anisotropy and reduced asymmetry. However, the molecular correlates of these deficits are currently unknown. The aim of this study was to identify alterations in protein and metabolite levels in the ALIC in schizophrenia. Samples were obtained post-mortem from individuals with schizophrenia (n=15) and non-psychiatric controls (n=13). Immunoreactivity for the myelin-associated protein myelin basic protein (MBP), and the axonal-associated proteins phosphorylated neurofilament and SNAP-25 was measured by enzyme-linked immunoadsorbant assay (ELISA). Metabolite concentrations were quantified by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy. Levels of myelin- or axonal-associated proteins did not differ between groups. Overall differences in metabolite concentrations were observed between the two groups (MANOVA F=2.685, p=0.036), with post-hoc tests revealing lower lactate (19%) and alanine (24%) levels in the schizophrenia group relative to controls. Observed changes in lactate and alanine levels indicate metabolic abnormalities within the ALIC in schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4169119  PMID: 19272755
myelin; axon; metabolite; internal capsule; lactate
5.  Increased DNA methylation in the suicide brain 
Clinical studies find that childhood adversity and stress-ful life events in adulthood increase the risk for major depression and for suicide. The predispositions to either major depression or suicide are thought to depend on genetic risk factors or epigenetic effects. We investigated DNA methylation signatures postmortem in brains of suicides with diagnosis of major depressive disorder. DNA methylation levels were determined at single C-phosphate-G (CpG) resolution sites within ventral prefrontal cortex of 53 suicides and nonpsychiatric controls, aged 16 to 89 years. We found that DNA methylation increases throughout the lifespan. Suicides showed an 8-fold greater number of methylated CpG sites relative to controls (P<2.2x10-16), with greater DNA methylation changes over and above the increased methylation observed in normal aging. This increased DNA methylation may be a significant contributor to the neuropathology and psychopathology underlying the risk of suicide in depression.
PMCID: PMC4214183  PMID: 25364291
aging; depression; DNA methylation; epigenetics; mood disorder; suicide
6.  Serotonin 2c receptor RNA editing in major depression and suicide 
mRNA for serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2CR) undergoes editing which results in numerous isoforms. More highly edited isoforms exhibit decreased function. We recently found greater 5-HT2CR editing in suicide victims with prior bipolar disorder (BPD) or schizophrenia (SZ) compared with non-suicide patients and normal controls (NC). This study compares suicides and non-suicides with major depressive disorder (MDDSuic and MDDNoSuic) and non-suicide NC.
mRNA editing was assessed in prefrontal cortex of 24 MDDSuic, 21 MDDNoSuic, and 56 NC using next generation sequencing. mRNA expression of 5-HT2CR and editing enzymes (ADAR1-2) was assessed by real-time PCR.
Editing was lower in MDDNoSuic than in MDDSuic, which did not differ from NC. No differences in the 5-HT2CR or ADAR1 expression were detected. ADAR2 expression was higher in NC than in MDD subjects, but did not differ between MDDNoSuic and MDDSuic.
Our findings suggest the presence of two factors associated with 5-HT2CR editing. One factor, which probably stems from decreased ADAR2 expression, is linked to MDD and is associated with less editing. The other, seen also in our previous study of suicide in BP and SZ, is linked to suicide alone and is associated with more editing and, therefore, less receptor function.
PMCID: PMC4120662  PMID: 22404657
RNA editing; ADAR; serotonin receptor; major depressive disorder; suicide
7.  Early-life stress, corpus callosum development, hippocampal volumetrics, and anxious behavior in male nonhuman primates 
Psychiatry research  2011;192(1):37-44.
Male bonnet monkeys (Macaca radiata) were subjected to the Variable Foraging Demand (VFD) early stress paradigm as infants, MRI scans were completed an average of four years later, and behavioral assessments of anxiety and ex-vivo corpus callosum (CC) measurements were made when animals were fully matured. VFD rearing was associated with smaller CC size, CC measurements were found to correlate with fearful behavior in adulthood, and ex-vivo CC assessments showed high consistency with earlier MRI measures. Region of Interest (ROI) hippocampus and whole brain voxel- based morphometry assessments were also completed and VFD rearing was associated with reduced hippocampus and inferior and middle temporal gyri volumes. Animals were also characterized according to serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR), and the effect of genotype on imaging parameters was explored. The current findings highlight the importance of future research to better understand the effects of stress on brain development in multiple regions, including the corpus callosum, hippocampus, and other regions involved in emotion processing. Nonhuman primates provide a powerful model to unravel the mechanisms by which early stress and genetic makeup interact to produce long-term changes in brain development, stress reactivity, and risk for psychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC4090111  PMID: 21377844
stress; monkeys; corpus callosum; hippocampus; brain abnormalities; 5-HTTLPR
8.  Hippocampal Granule Neuron Number and Dentate Gyrus Volume in Antidepressant-Treated and Untreated Major Depression 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2013;38(6):1068-1077.
Smaller hippocampal volume is reported in major depressive disorder (MDD). We hypothesize that it may be related to fewer granule neurons (GN) in the dentate gyrus (DG), a defect possibly reversible with antidepressants. We studied age-, sex-, and postmortem interval-matched groups: no major psychopathology (controls); unmedicated-MDD; and MDD treated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (MDD*SSRI) or tricyclics (MDD*TCA). Frozen right hippocampi were fixed, sectioned (50 μm), immunostained with neuronal nuclear marker (NeuN), and counterstained with hematoxylin. GN and glial number, and DG and granule cell layer (GCL) volumes were stereologically estimated. Fewer GNs in the anterior DG were present in unmedicated-MDDs compared with controls (p=0.013). Younger age of MDD onset correlated with fewer GNs (p=0.021). Unmedicated-MDDs had fewer mid-DG GNs than MDD*SSRIs (p=0.028) and controls (p=0.032). Anterior GCL glial number did not differ between groups. Anterior/mid GCL volume was smaller in unmedicated-MDDs vs controls (p=0.008) and larger in MDD*SSRIs vs unmedicated-MDDs (p<0.001), MDD*TCAs (p<0.001), and controls (p<0.001). Anterior GCL volume and GN number (r=0.594, p=0.001), and mid DG volume and GN number (r=0.398, p=0.044) were correlated. Anterior DG capillary density correlated with GN number (p=0.027), and with GCL (p=0.024) and DG (r=0.400, p=0.047) volumes. Posterior DG volume and GN number did not differ between groups. Fewer GNs in unmedicated-MDD without fewer neuronal progenitor cells, as previously reported, suggests a cell maturation or survival defect, perhaps related to MDD duration. This may contribute to a smaller hippocampus and is potentially reversed by SSRIs. Postmortem studies are correlative and animal studies are needed to test implied causal relationships.
PMCID: PMC3629406  PMID: 23303074
Depression; Unipolar/Bipolar; Glia; Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology; NeuN; Neuroanatomy; Postmortem; Psychopharmacology; Smoking; SSRI; Stereology; NeuN; postmortem; stereology; plasticity; psychopharmacology; serotonin
9.  Unaltered Neuronal and Glial Counts in Animal Models of Magnetic Seizure Therapy and Electroconvulsive Therapy 
Neuroscience  2009;164(4):1557-1564.
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.
PMCID: PMC2784087  PMID: 19782728
Stereology; Frontal cortex; Hippocampus; Antidepressant; Transcranial magnetic stimulation
10.  A quantitative perspective to the study of brain arterial remodeling of donors with and without HIV in the Brain Arterial Remodeling Study (BARS) 
Mechanisms underlying brain arterial remodeling are uncertain. We tested the hypothesis that arterial size and location are important determinants of arterial characteristics. We collected large and penetrating brain arteries from cadavers with and without HIV. Morphometric characterization was obtained from digital images using color-based thresholding. The association of arterial size and location with lumen diameter, media and adventitia area, media proportion, a wall thickness, wall-to-lumen ratio and stenosis was obtained with multilevel mixed models and a P value ≤ 0.05 was considered significant. We included 336 brains, in which 2279 large arteries and 1488 penetrating arteries were identified. We found that arterial size was significantly associated with all arterial characteristics studied of large and penetrating arteries with exception of arterial stenosis in large arteries. After adjusting for size, an independent association was found between lumen diameters, media and adventitia thickness with artery locations. Arterial stenosis was also associated with artery location in both large and penetrating arteries. In summary, significant effects of size and/or location were found in arterial characteristics typically used to define arterial remodeling. Brain arterial remodeling characteristics differ across arterial sizes and location, and these differences should be controlled for in future studies of brain arterial remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3928551  PMID: 24600402
brain arteries; arterial remodeling; media thickness; stenosis; HIV; cardiovascular disease
11.  Early life stress and macaque amygdala hypertrophy: preliminary evidence for a role for the serotonin transporter gene 
Background: Children exposed to early life stress (ELS) exhibit enlarged amygdala volume in comparison to controls. The primary goal of this study was to examine amygdala volumes in bonnet macaques subjected to maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) rearing, a well-established model of ELS. Preliminary analyses examined the interaction of ELS and the serotonin transporter gene on amygdala volume. Secondary analyses were conducted to examine the association between amygdala volume and other stress-related variables previously found to distinguish VFD and non-VFD reared animals.
Methods: Twelve VFD-reared and nine normally reared monkeys completed MRI scans on a 3T system (mean age = 5.2 years).
Results: Left amygdala volume was larger in VFD vs. control macaques. Larger amygdala volume was associated with: “high” cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of corticotropin releasing-factor (CRF) determined when the animals were in adolescence (mean age = 2.7 years); reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) during young adulthood (mean age = 5.2 years) and timid anxiety-like responses to an intruder during full adulthood (mean age = 8.4 years). Right amygdala volume varied inversely with left hippocampal neurogenesis assessed in late adulthood (mean age = 8.7 years). Exploratory analyses also showed a gene-by-environment effect, with VFD-reared macaques with a single short allele of the serotonin transporter gene exhibiting larger amygdala volume compared to VFD-reared subjects with only the long allele and normally reared controls.
Conclusion: These data suggest that the left amygdala exhibits hypertrophy after ELS, particularly in association with the serotonin transporter gene, and that amygdala volume variation occurs in concert with other key stress-related behavioral and neurobiological parameters observed across the lifecycle. Future research is required to understand the mechanisms underlying these diverse and persistent changes associated with ELS and amygdala volume.
PMCID: PMC4186477  PMID: 25339875
amygdala; early life stress; non-human primates; MRI; stress; serotonin transporter gene
12.  Elevated cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in macaques following early life stress and inverse association with hippocampal volume: preliminary implications for serotonin-related function in mood and anxiety disorders 
Background: Early life stress (ELS) is cited as a risk for mood and anxiety disorders, potentially through altered serotonin neurotransmission. We examined the effects of ELS, utilizing the variable foraging demand (VFD) macaque model, on adolescent monoamine metabolites. We sought to replicate an increase in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) observed in two previous VFD cohorts. We hypothesized that elevated cisternal 5-HIAA was associated with reduced neurotrophic effects, conceivably due to excessive negative feedback at somatodendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptors. A putatively decreased serotonin neurotransmission would be reflected by reductions in hippocampal volume and white matter (WM) fractional anisotropy (FA).
Methods: When infants were 2–6 months of age, bonnet macaque mothers were exposed to VFD. We employed cisternal CSF taps to measure monoamine metabolites in VFD (N = 22) and non-VFD (N = 14) offspring (mean age = 2.61 years). Metabolites were correlated with hippocampal volume obtained by MRI and WM FA by diffusion tensor imaging in young adulthood in 17 males [10 VFD (mean age = 4.57 years)].
Results: VFD subjects exhibited increased CSF 5-HIAA compared to non-VFD controls. An inverse correlation between right hippocampal volume and 5-HIAA was noted in VFD- but not controls. CSF HVA and MHPG correlated inversely with hippocampal volume only in VFD. CSF 5-HIAA correlated inversely with FA of the WM tracts of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) only in VFD.
Conclusions: Elevated cisternal 5-HIAA in VFD may reflect increased dorsal raphe serotonin, potentially inducing excessive autoreceptor activation, inducing a putative serotonin deficit in terminal fields. Resultant reductions in neurotrophic activity are reflected by smaller right hippocampal volume. Convergent evidence of reduced neurotrophic activity in association with high CSF 5-HIAA in VFD was reflected by reduced FA of the ALIC.
PMCID: PMC4274982  PMID: 25566007
variable foraging demand; MRI; cisternal tap; serotonin metabolite; monoamine metabolites
13.  A large-scale candidate gene analysis of mood disorders: evidence of neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor and opioid receptor signaling dysfunction 
Psychiatric genetics  2013;23(2):10.1097/YPG.0b013e32835d7028.
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.
PMCID: PMC3869619  PMID: 23277131
linkage and association; mood disorders; neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor; opioid receptor; type 2; κ1
14.  A pilot genome wide association and gene expression array study of suicide with and without major depression 
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.
PMCID: PMC3493880  PMID: 22059935
Suicide; genetics; mood disorders; single nucleotide polymorphism; psychological autopsy
Biological psychiatry  2012;72(7):562-571.
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.
PMCID: PMC3438317  PMID: 22652019
neural progenitor cells; nestin; dentate gyrus; postmortem; stereology; immunohistochemistry
16.  Global Epigenomic Reconfiguration During Mammalian Brain Development 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;341(6146):1237905.
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.
PMCID: PMC3785061  PMID: 23828890
17.  Role of CpG context and content in evolutionary signatures of brain DNA methylation 
Epigenetics  2011;6(11):1308-1318.
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.
PMCID: PMC3775885  PMID: 22048252
DNA methylation; comparative epigenetics; evolutionary conservation; human brain; mouse brain; prefrontal cortex; auditory cortex; CpG island shore
18.  Hemispheric comparisons of neuron density in the planum temporale of schizophrenia and nonpsychiatric brains 
Psychiatry research  2011;192(1):1-11.
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.
PMCID: PMC3071586  PMID: 21377842
Auditory cortex; stereology; cytoarchitectonic; cortex width; hemispheric asymmetry; neuropathology
19.  Early-life Stress, Corticotropin-Releasing Factor, and Serotonin Transporter Gene: A Pilot Study 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2010;36(2):289-293.
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.
PMCID: PMC3017732  PMID: 20692103
Nonhuman primates; corticotropin-releasing hormone; early-life stress; serotonin transporter gene; major depression; anxiety disorders; gene by environment interaction
20.  Early-Life Stress and Neurometabolites of the Hippocampus 
Brain research  2010;1358:191-199.
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.
PMCID: PMC2988576  PMID: 20713023
Early-Life Stress; Nonhuman Primate; Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Hippocampus; N-Acetyl-Aspartate; Brain laterality
21.  The role of early life stress in development of the anterior limb of the internal capsule in non-human primates 
Neuroscience letters  2010;480(2):93-96.
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.
PMCID: PMC2951885  PMID: 20541590
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand
22.  Necessity of Hippocampal Neurogenesis for the Therapeutic Action of Antidepressants in Adult Nonhuman Primates 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e17600.
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.
PMCID: PMC3078107  PMID: 21525974
23.  A Novel Mechanism and Treatment Target for Presynaptic Abnormalities in Specific Striatal Regions in Schizophrenia 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(5):1226-1238.
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.
PMCID: PMC3055413  PMID: 20072114
SNAREs; schizophrenia; striatum; postmortem; protein interactions; SNAP-25; Schizophrenia/Antipsychotics; Plasticity; Neurochemistry; Neuropharmacology; SNARE proteins
24.  Altered volume and hemispheric asymmetry of the superficial cortical layers in the schizophrenia planum temporale 
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.
PMCID: PMC2771288  PMID: 19656176
25.  Genome-Wide Divergence of DNA Methylation Marks in Cerebral and Cerebellar Cortices 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11357.
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.
Methodology/Significant Findings
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.
PMCID: PMC2893206  PMID: 20596539

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