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1.  Expression of DISC1-Interactome Members Correlates with Cognitive Phenotypes Related to Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99892.
Cognitive dysfunction is central to the schizophrenia phenotype. Genetic and functional studies have implicated Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), a leading candidate gene for schizophrenia and related psychiatric conditions, in cognitive function. Altered expression of DISC1 and DISC1-interactors has been identified in schizophrenia. Dysregulated expression of DISC1-interactome genes might, therefore, contribute to schizophrenia susceptibility via disruption of molecular systems required for normal cognitive function. Here, the blood RNA expression levels of DISC1 and DISC1-interacting proteins were measured in 63 control subjects. Cognitive function was assessed using neuropsychiatric tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess the activity of prefrontal cortical regions during the N-back working memory task, which is abnormal in schizophrenia. Pairwise correlations between gene expression levels and the relationship between gene expression levels and cognitive function and N-back-elicited brain activity were assessed. Finally, the expression levels of DISC1, AKAP9, FEZ1, NDEL1 and PCM1 were compared between 63 controls and 69 schizophrenic subjects. We found that DISC1-interactome genes showed correlated expression in the blood of healthy individuals. The expression levels of several interactome members were correlated with cognitive performance and N-back-elicited activity in the prefrontal cortex. In addition, DISC1 and NDEL1 showed decreased expression in schizophrenic subjects compared to healthy controls. Our findings highlight the importance of the coordinated expression of DISC1-interactome genes for normal cognitive function and suggest that dysregulated DISC1 and NDEL1 expression might, in part, contribute to susceptibility for schizophrenia via disruption of prefrontal cortex-dependent cognitive functions.
PMCID: PMC4062455  PMID: 24940743
2.  DRD2/CHRNA5 Interaction on Prefrontal Biology and Physiology during Working Memory 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95997.
Prefrontal behavior and activity in humans are heritable. Studies in animals demonstrate an interaction between dopamine D2 receptors and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on prefrontal behavior but evidence in humans is weak. Therefore, we hypothesize that genetic variation regulating dopamine D2 and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor signaling impact prefrontal cortex activity and related cognition. To test this hypothesis in humans, we explored the interaction between functional genetic variants in the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560) and in the nicotinic receptor α5 gene (CHRNA5, rs16969968) on both dorsolateral prefrontal cortex mediated behavior and physiology during working memory and on prefrontal gray matter volume.
A large sample of healthy subjects was compared for genotypic differences for DRD2 rs1076560 (G>T) and CHNRA5 rs16969968 (G>A) on prefrontal phenotypes, including cognitive performance at the N-Back task, prefrontal physiology with BOLD fMRI during performance of the 2-Back working memory task, and prefrontal morphometry with structural MRI.
We found that DRD2 rs1076560 and CHNRA5 rs16969968 interact to modulate cognitive function, prefrontal physiology during working memory, and prefrontal gray matter volume. More specifically, CHRNA5-AA/DRD2-GT subjects had greater behavioral performance, more efficient prefrontal cortex activity at 2Back working memory task, and greater prefrontal gray matter volume than the other genotype groups.
The present data extend previous studies in animals and enhance our understanding of dopamine and acetylcholine signaling in the human prefrontal cortex, demonstrating interactions elicited by working memory that are modulated by genetic variants in DRD2 and CHRNA5.
PMCID: PMC4018353  PMID: 24819610
3.  Functional variation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene is associated with emotional control as well as brain activity and connectivity during emotion processing in humans 
Personality traits related to emotion processing are, at least in part, heritable and genetically determined. Dopamine D2 receptor signaling is involved in modulation of emotional behavior and activity of associated brain regions such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. An intronic single nucleotide polymorphism within the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560, guanine>thymine - G>T) shifts splicing of the two protein isoforms (D2 short, D2S, mainly presynaptic, and D2 long, D2L) and has been associated with modulation of memory performance and brain activity. Here, our aim was to investigate the association of DRD2 rs1076560 genotype with personality traits of emotional stability and with brain physiology during processing of emotionally relevant stimuli. DRD2 genotype and Big Five Questionnaire scores were evaluated in 134 healthy subjects demonstrating that GG subjects have reduced ‘emotion control’ compared with GT subjects. fMRI in a sample of 24 individuals indicated greater amygdala activity during implicit processing and greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) response during explicit processing of facial emotional stimuli in GG subjects compared with GT. Other results also demonstrate an interaction between DRD2 genotype and facial emotional expression on functional connectivity of both amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal regions with overlapping medial prefrontal areas. Moreover, rs1076560 genotype is associated with differential relationships between amygdala/DLPFC functional connectivity and emotion control scores. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 signaling may explain part of personality traits related to emotion processing and individual variability in specific brain responses to emotionally relevant inputs.
PMCID: PMC2834475  PMID: 19940176
amygdala; DRD2; dopamine; emotion; fMRI; prefrontal cortex
4.  Association of the Ser704Cys DISC1 polymorphism with human hippocampal formation gray matter and function during memory encoding 
The European journal of neuroscience  2008;28(10):2129-2136.
A common nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism leading to a serine-to-cysteine substitution at amino acid 704 (Ser704Cys) in the DISC1 protein sequence has been recently associated with schizophrenia and with specific hippocampal abnormalities. Here, we used multimodal neuroimaging to investigate in a large sample of healthy subjects the putative association of the Ser704Cys DISC1 polymorphism with in vivo brain phenotypes including hippocampal formation (HF) gray matter volume and function (as assessed with functional MRI) as well as HF functional coupling with the neural network engaged during encoding of recognition memory. Individuals homozygous for DISC1 Ser allele relative to carriers of the Cys allele showed greater gray matter volume in the HF. Further, Ser/Ser subjects exhibited greater engagement of the HF together with greater HF–dorsolateral prefrontal cortex functional coupling during memory encoding, in spite of similar behavioral performance. These findings consistently support the notion that Ser704Cys DISC1 polymorphism is physiologically relevant. Moreover, they support the hypothesis that genetic variation in DISC1 may affect the risk for schizophrenia by modifying hippocampal gray matter and function.
PMCID: PMC2865560  PMID: 19046394
DISC1; fMRI; gray matter; hippocampus; memory encoding; phenotypic variance
5.  Functional variants of the dopamine receptor D2 gene modulate prefronto-striatal phenotypes in schizophrenia 
Brain  2008;132(2):417-425.
Dopamine D2 receptor signalling is strongly implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia. We have recently characterized the function of three DRD2 SNPs: rs12364283 in the promoter affecting total D2 mRNA expression; rs2283265 and rs1076560, respectively in introns 5 and 6, shifting mRNA splicing to two functionally distinct isoforms, the short form of D2 (D2S) and the long form (D2L). These two isoforms differentially contribute to dopamine signalling in prefrontal cortex and in striatum. We performed a case–control study to determine association of these variants and of their main haplotypes with several schizophrenia-related phenotypes. We demonstrate that the minor allele in the intronic variants is associated with reduced expression of %D2S of total mRNA in post-mortem prefrontal cortex, and with impaired working memory behavioural performance, both in patients and controls. However, the fMRI results show opposite effects in patients compared with controls: enhanced engagement of prefronto-striatal pathways in controls and reduced activity in patients. Moreover, the promoter variant is also associated with working memory activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum of patients, and less robustly with negative symptoms scores. Main haplotypes formed by the three DRD2 variants showed significant associations with these phenotypes consistent with those of the individual SNPs. Our results indicate that the three functional DRD2 variants modulate schizophrenia phenotypes possibly by modifying D2S/D2L ratios in the context of different total D2 density.
PMCID: PMC2640212  PMID: 18829695
dopamine; D2 receptor; working memory; prefrontal cortex; striatum

Results 1-5 (5)