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1.  Plasma lipidomics analysis finds long chain cholesteryl esters to be associated with Alzheimer's disease 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e494-.
There is an urgent need for the identification of Alzheimer's disease (AD) biomarkers. Studies have now suggested the promising use of associations with blood metabolites as functional intermediate phenotypes in biomedical and pharmaceutical research. The aim of this study was to use lipidomics to identify a battery of plasma metabolite molecules that could predict AD patients from controls. We performed a comprehensive untargeted lipidomic analysis, using ultra-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry on plasma samples from 35 AD patients, 40 elderly controls and 48 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and used multivariate analysis methods to identify metabolites associated with AD status. A combination of 10 metabolites could discriminate AD patients from controls with 79.2% accuracy (81.8% sensitivity, 76.9% specificity and an area under curve of 0.792) in a novel test set. Six of the metabolites were identified as long chain cholesteryl esters (ChEs) and were reduced in AD (ChE 32:0, odds ratio (OR)=0.237, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.10–0.48, P=4.19E−04; ChE 34:0, OR=0.152, 95% CI=0.05–0.37, P=2.90E−04; ChE 34:6, OR=0.126, 95% CI=0.03–0.35, P=5.40E−04; ChE 32:4, OR=0.056, 95% CI=0.01–0.24, P=6.56E−04 and ChE 33:6, OR=0.205, 95% CI=0.06–0.50, P=2.21E−03, per (log2) metabolite unit). The levels of these metabolites followed the trend control>MCI>AD. We, additionally, found no association between cholesterol, the precursor of ChE and AD. This study identified new ChE molecules, involved in cholesterol metabolism, implicated in AD, which may help identify new therapeutic targets; although, these findings need to be replicated in larger well-phenotyped cohorts.
PMCID: PMC4312824  PMID: 25585166
2.  Aggrecan and chondroitin-6-sulfate abnormalities in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: a postmortem study on the amygdala 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e496-.
Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are specialized extracellular matrix aggregates surrounding distinct neuronal populations and regulating synaptic functions and plasticity. Previous findings showed robust PNN decreases in amygdala, entorhinal cortex and prefrontal cortex of subjects with schizophrenia (SZ), but not bipolar disorder (BD). These studies were carried out using a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) lectin marker. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the CSPG aggrecan, and 6-sulfated chondroitin sulfate (CS-6) chains highly represented in aggrecan, may contribute to these abnormalities. Antibodies against aggrecan and CS-6 (3B3 and CS56) were used in the amygdala of healthy control, SZ and BD subjects. In controls, aggrecan immunoreactivity (IR) was observed in PNNs and glial cells. Antibody 3B3, but not CS56, also labeled PNNs in the amygdala. In addition, dense clusters of CS56 and 3B3 IR encompassed CS56- and 3B3-IR glia, respectively. In SZ, numbers of aggrecan- and 3B3-IR PNNs were decreased, together with marked reductions of aggrecan-IR glial cells and CS-6 (3B3 and CS56)-IR ‘clusters'. In BD, numbers of 3B3-IR PNNs and CS56-IR clusters were reduced. Our findings show disruption of multiple PNN populations in the amygdala of SZ and, more modestly, BD. Decreases of aggrecan-IR glia and CS-6-IR glial ‘clusters', in sharp contrast to increases of CSPG/lectin-positive glia previously observed, indicate that CSPG abnormalities may affect distinct glial cell populations and suggest a potential mechanism for PNN decreases. Together, these abnormalities may contribute to a destabilization of synaptic connectivity and regulation of neuronal functions in the amygdala of subjects with major psychoses.
PMCID: PMC4312825  PMID: 25603412
3.  N-Acetylcysteine improves mitochondrial function and ameliorates behavioral deficits in the R6/1 mouse model of Huntington's disease 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e492-.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, involving psychiatric, cognitive and motor symptoms, caused by a CAG-repeat expansion encoding an extended polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin protein. Oxidative stress and excitotoxicity have previously been implicated in the pathogenesis of HD. We hypothesized that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may reduce both excitotoxicity and oxidative stress through its actions on glutamate reuptake and antioxidant capacity. The R6/1 transgenic mouse model of HD was used to investigate the effects of NAC on HD pathology. It was found that chronic NAC administration delayed the onset and progression of motor deficits in R6/1 mice, while having an antidepressant-like effect on both R6/1 and wild-type mice. A deficit in the astrocytic glutamate transporter protein, GLT-1, was found in R6/1 mice. However, this deficit was not ameliorated by NAC, implying that the therapeutic effect of NAC is not due to rescue of the GLT-1 deficit and associated glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. Assessment of mitochondrial function in the striatum and cortex revealed that R6/1 mice show reduced mitochondrial respiratory capacity specific to the striatum. This deficit was rescued by chronic treatment with NAC. There was a selective increase in markers of oxidative damage in mitochondria, which was rescued by NAC. In conclusion, NAC is able to delay the onset of motor deficits in the R6/1 model of Huntington's disease and it may do so by ameliorating mitochondrial dysfunction. Thus, NAC shows promise as a potential therapeutic agent in HD. Furthermore, our data suggest that NAC may also have broader antidepressant efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4312826  PMID: 25562842
4.  Dopaminergic function and intertemporal choice 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e491-.
The discounting of delayed rewards, also known as temporal or delay discounting, is intrinsic to everyday decisions and can be impaired in pathological states such as addiction disorders. Preclinical and human studies suggest a role for dopaminergic function in temporal discounting but this relationship has not yet been verified using molecular imaging of the living human brain. Here, we evaluated dopaminergic function in temporal discounting using positron emission tomography (PET) with two different dopaminergic ligands assessing three populations in whom temporal discounting has been shown to be impaired. First, we show using [11C]raclopride PET that in pathological gamblers, greater temporal discounting correlates with decreased ventral striatal binding potential, convergent with translational findings of lower nucleus accumbens D2/D3 receptor density in high-impulsive rodents. Temporal discounting also correlates with lower ventral striatal dopamine release in response to high-reward magnitude suggesting that dopamine-mediated devaluation of larger delayed rewards may drive choice preferences. Second, we show using [18F]fluorodopa PET that in Parkinson's disease, temporal discounting correlates with greater left caudate dopaminergic terminal function. Finally, in subjects with Parkinson's disease and dopamine medication-induced behavioral addictions, temporal discounting is further correlated with greater dopaminergic terminal function in the anterior putamen. These findings provide insights into the relationship between striatal dopamine function and temporal discounting, and its potential role in pathological disorders and mechanisms underlying treatment interventions.
PMCID: PMC4312827  PMID: 25562841
5.  Predictors of treatment response in young people at ultra-high risk for psychosis who received long-chain omega-3 fatty acids 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e495-.
Previous efforts in the prospective evaluation of individuals who experience attenuated psychotic symptoms have attempted to isolate mechanisms underlying the onset of full-threshold psychotic illness. In contrast, there has been little research investigating specific predictors of positive outcomes. In this study, we sought to determine biological and clinical factors associated with treatment response, here indexed by functional improvement in a pre–post examination of a 12-week randomized controlled intervention in individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis. Participants received either long-chain omega-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or placebo. To allow the determination of factors specifically relevant to each intervention, and to be able to contrast them, both treatment groups were investigated in parallel. Univariate linear regression analysis indicated that higher levels of erythrocyte membrane α-linolenic acid (ALA; the parent fatty acid of the ω-3 family) and more severe negative symptoms at baseline predicted subsequent functional improvement in the treatment group, whereas less severe positive symptoms and lower functioning at baseline were predictive in the placebo group. A multivariate machine learning analysis, known as Gaussian Process Classification (GPC), confirmed that baseline fatty acids predicted response to treatment in the ω-3 PUFA group with high levels of sensitivity, specificity and accuracy. In addition, GPC revealed that baseline fatty acids were predictive in the placebo group. In conclusion, our investigation indicates that UHR patients with higher levels of ALA may specifically benefit from ω-3 PUFA supplementation. In addition, multivariate machine learning analysis suggests that fatty acids could potentially be used to inform prognostic evaluations and treatment decisions at the level of the individual. Notably, multiple statistical analyses were conducted in a relatively small sample, limiting the conclusions that can be drawn from what we believe to be a first-of-its-kind study. Additional studies with larger samples are therefore needed to evaluate the generalizability of these findings.
PMCID: PMC4312828  PMID: 25585167
6.  Plant-derived flavanol (−)epicatechin mitigates anxiety in association with elevated hippocampal monoamine and BDNF levels, but does not influence pattern separation in mice 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e493-.
Flavanols found in natural products such as cocoa and green tea elicit structural and biochemical changes in the hippocampus, a brain area important for mood and cognition. Here, we evaluated the outcome of daily consumption of the flavanol (−)epicatechin (4 mg per day in water) by adult male C57BL/6 mice on measures of anxiety in the elevated plus maze (EPM) and open field (OF). Furthermore, pattern separation, the ability to distinguish between closely spaced identical stimuli, considered to be mediated by the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG), was tested using the touchscreen. To investigate mechanisms through which (−)epicatechin may exert its effects, mice were injected with bromodeoxyuridine (50 mg kg−1) to evaluate adult hippocampal neurogenesis. In addition, monoaminergic and neurotrophin signaling pathway proteins were measured in tissue derived from subject cortices and hippocampi. Flavanol consumption reduced anxiety in the OF and EPM. Elevated hippocampal and cortical tyrosine hydroxylase, downregulated cortical monoamine oxidase-A levels, as well as increased hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and pro-BDNF support the flavanol's anxiolytic effects. In addition, elevated pAkt in hippocampus and cortex was observed. (−)Epicatechin ingestion did not facilitate touchscreen performance or DG neurogenesis, suggesting a non-neurogenic mechanism. The concurrent modulation of complementary neurotrophic and monoaminergic signaling pathways may contribute to beneficial mood-modulating effects of this flavanol.
PMCID: PMC4312829  PMID: 25562843
7.  Association between SNAP-25 gene polymorphisms and cognition in autism: functional consequences and potential therapeutic strategies 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e500-.
Synaptosomal-associated protein of 25 kDa (SNAP-25) is involved in different neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Consistently, SNAP-25 polymorphisms in humans are associated with hyperactivity and/or with low cognitive scores. We analysed five SNAP-25 gene polymorphisms (rs363050, rs363039, rs363043, rs3746544 and rs1051312) in 46 autistic children trying to correlate them with Childhood Autism Rating Scale and electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities. The functional effects of rs363050 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on the gene transcriptional activity, by means of the luciferase reporter gene, were evaluated. To investigate the functional consequences that SNAP-25 reduction may have in children, the behaviour and EEG of SNAP-25+/− adolescent mice (SNAP-25+/+) were studied. Significant association of SNAP-25 polymorphism with decreasing cognitive scores was observed. Analysis of transcriptional activity revealed that SNP rs363050 encompasses a regulatory element, leading to protein expression decrease. Reduction of SNAP-25 levels in adolescent mice was associated with hyperactivity, cognitive and social impairment and an abnormal EEG, characterized by the occurrence of frequent spikes. Both EEG abnormalities and behavioural deficits were rescued by repeated exposure for 21 days to sodium salt valproate (VLP). A partial recovery of SNAP-25 expression content in SNAP-25+/− hippocampi was also observed by means of western blotting. A reduced expression of SNAP-25 is responsible for the cognitive deficits in children affected by autism spectrum disorders, as presumably occurring in the presence of rs363050(G) allele, and for behavioural and EEG alterations in adolescent mice. VLP treatment could result in novel therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4312830  PMID: 25629685
8.  Impaired regulation of emotion: neural correlates of reappraisal and distraction in bipolar disorder and unaffected relatives 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e497-.
Deficient emotion regulation has been proposed as a crucial pathological mechanism in bipolar disorder (BD). We therefore investigated emotion regulation impairments in BD, the related neural underpinnings and their etiological relevance for the disorder. Twenty-two euthymic patients with bipolar-I disorder and 17 unaffected first-degree relatives of BD-I patients, as well as two groups of healthy gender-, age- and education-matched controls (N=22/17, respectively) were included. Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while applying two different emotion regulation techniques, reappraisal and distraction, when presented with emotional images. BD patients and relatives showed impaired downregulation of amygdala activity during reappraisal, but not during distraction, when compared with controls. This deficit was correlated with the habitual use of reappraisal. The negative connectivity of amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) observed during reappraisal in controls was reversed in BD patients and relatives. There were no significant differences between BD patients and relatives. As being observed in BD patients and unaffected relatives, deficits in emotion regulation through reappraisal may represent heritable neurobiological abnormalities underlying BD. The neural mechanisms include impaired control of amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli and dysfunctional connectivity of the amygdala to regulatory control regions in the OFC. These are, thus, important aspects of the neurobiological basis of increased vulnerability for BD.
PMCID: PMC4312831  PMID: 25603413
9.  Analyzing the influence of BDNF heterozygosity on spatial memory response to 17β-estradiol 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e498-.
The recent use of estrogen-based therapies as adjunctive treatments for the cognitive impairments of schizophrenia has produced promising results; however the mechanism behind estrogen-based cognitive enhancement is relatively unknown. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) regulates learning and memory and its expression is highly responsive to estradiol. We recently found that estradiol modulates the expression of hippocampal parvalbumin-positive GABAergic interneurons, known to regulate neuronal synchrony and cognitive function. What is unknown is whether disruptions to the aforementioned estradiol–parvalbumin pathway alter learning and memory, and whether BDNF may mediate these events. Wild-type (WT) and BDNF heterozygous (+/−) mice were ovariectomized (OVX) at 5 weeks of age and simultaneously received empty, estradiol- or progesterone-filled implants for 7 weeks. At young adulthood, mice were tested for spatial and recognition memory in the Y-maze and novel-object recognition test, respectively. Hippocampal protein expression of BDNF and GABAergic interneuron markers, including parvalbumin, were assessed. WT OVX mice show impaired performance on Y-maze and novel-object recognition test. Estradiol replacement in OVX mice prevented the Y-maze impairment, a Behavioral abnormality of dorsal hippocampal origin. BDNF and parvalbumin protein expression in the dorsal hippocampus and parvalbumin-positive cell number in the dorsal CA1 were significantly reduced by OVX in WT mice, while E2 replacement prevented these deficits. In contrast, BDNF+/− mice showed either no response or an opposite response to hormone manipulation in both behavioral and molecular indices. Our data suggest that BDNF status is an important biomarker for predicting responsiveness to estrogenic compounds which have emerged as promising adjunctive therapeutics for schizophrenia patients.
PMCID: PMC4312832  PMID: 25603414
10.  C-reactive protein gene variants: independent association with late-life depression and circulating protein levels 
Translational Psychiatry  2015;5(1):e499-.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a heritable biomarker of systemic inflammation that is commonly elevated in depressed patients. Variants in the CRP gene that influence protein levels could thus be associated with depression but this has seldom been examined, especially in the elderly. Depression was assessed in 990 people aged at least 65 years as part of the ESPRIT study. A clinical level of depression (DEP) was defined as having a score of ⩾16 on The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale or a diagnosis of current major depression based on the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview and according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV criteria. Five single-nucleotide polymorphisms spanning the CRP gene were genotyped, and circulating levels of high-sensitivity CRP were determined. Multivariable analyses adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics, smoking, ischemic pathologies, cognitive impairment and inflammation-related chronic pathologies. The minor alleles of rs1130864 and rs1417938 were associated with a decreased risk of depression in women at Bonferroni-corrected significance levels (P=0.002). CRP gene variants were associated with serum levels in a gender-specific manner, but only rs1205 was found to be nominally associated with both an increased risk of DEP and lower circulating CRP levels in women. Variants of the CRP gene thus influence circulating CRP levels and appear as independent susceptibility factors for late-life depression.
PMCID: PMC4312833  PMID: 25603415
11.  A combination of physical activity and computerized brain training improves verbal memory and increases cerebral glucose metabolism in the elderly 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(12):e487-.
Physical exercise interventions and cognitive training programs have individually been reported to improve cognition in the healthy elderly population; however, the clinical significance of using a combined approach is currently lacking. This study evaluated whether physical activity (PA), computerized cognitive training and/or a combination of both could improve cognition. In this nonrandomized study, 224 healthy community-dwelling older adults (60–85 years) were assigned to 16 weeks home-based PA (n=64), computerized cognitive stimulation (n=62), a combination of both (combined, n=51) or a control group (n=47). Cognition was assessed using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, Controlled Oral Word Association Test and the CogState computerized battery at baseline, 8 and 16 weeks post intervention. Physical fitness assessments were performed at all time points. A subset (total n=45) of participants underwent [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography scans at 16 weeks (post-intervention). One hundred and ninety-one participants completed the study and the data of 172 participants were included in the final analysis. Compared with the control group, the combined group showed improved verbal episodic memory and significantly higher brain glucose metabolism in the left sensorimotor cortex after controlling for age, sex, premorbid IQ, apolipoprotein E (APOE) status and history of head injury. The higher cerebral glucose metabolism in this brain region was positively associated with improved verbal memory seen in the combined group only. Our study provides evidence that a specific combination of physical and mental exercises for 16 weeks can improve cognition and increase cerebral glucose metabolism in cognitively intact healthy older adults.
PMCID: PMC4270308  PMID: 25463973
12.  Leptin receptor deficiency confers resistance to behavioral effects of fluoxetine and desipramine via separable substrates 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(12):e486-.
Depression is a complex, heterogeneous mental disorder. Currently available antidepressants are only effective in about one-third to one-half of all patients. The mechanisms underlying antidepressant response and treatment resistance are poorly understood. Recent clinical evidence implicates the involvement of leptin in treatment response to antidepressants. In this study, we determined the functional role of the leptin receptor (LepRb) in behavioral responses to the selective serotonergic antidepressant fluoxetine and the noradrenergic antidepressant desipramine. While acute and chronic treatment with fluoxetine or desipramine in wild-type mice elicited antidepressant-like effects in the forced swim test, mice null for LepRb (db/db) displayed resistance to treatment with either fluoxetine or desipramine. Fluoxetine stimulated phosphorylation of Akt(Thr308) and GSK-3β(Ser9) in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) of wild-type mice but not in db/db mice. Desipramine failed to induce measurable changes in Akt, GSK-3β or ERK1/2 phosphorylation in the hippocampus and PFC, as well as hypothalamus of either genotype of mice. Deletion of LepRb specifically from hippocampal and cortical neurons resulted in fluoxetine insensitivity in the forced swim test and tail suspension test while leaving the response to desipramine intact. These results suggest that functional LepRb is critically involved in regulating the antidepressant-like behavioral effects of both fluoxetine and desipramine. The antidepressant effects of fluoxetine but not desipramine are dependent on the presence of functional LepRb in the hippocampus and cortex.
PMCID: PMC4270309  PMID: 25463972
13.  Inflammation and lithium: clues to mechanisms contributing to suicide-linked traits 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(12):e488-.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, yet it remains difficult to understand the mechanistic provocations and to intervene therapeutically. Stress is recognized as a frequent precursor to suicide. Psychological stress is well established to cause activation of the inflammatory response, including causing neuroinflammation, an increase of inflammatory molecules in the central nervous system (CNS). Neuroinflammation is increasingly recognized as affecting many aspects of CNS functions and behaviors. In particular, much evidence demonstrates that inflammatory markers are elevated in traits that have been linked to suicidal behavior, including aggression, impulsivity and depression. Lithium is recognized as significantly reducing suicidal behavior, is anti-inflammatory and diminishes aggression, impulsivity and depression traits, each of which is associated with elevated inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of lithium result from its inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3). GSK3 has been demonstrated to strongly promote inflammation, aggressive behavior in rodents and depression-like behaviors in rodents, whereas regulation of impulsivity by GSK3 has not yet been investigated. Altogether, evidence is building supporting the hypothesis that stress activates GSK3, which in turn promotes inflammation, and that inflammation is linked to behaviors associated with suicide, including particularly aggression, impulsivity and depression. Further investigation of these links may provide a clearer understanding of the causes of suicidal behavior and provide leads for the development of effective preventative interventions, which may include inhibitors of GSK3.
PMCID: PMC4270310  PMID: 25514751
14.  The functional −1019C/G HTR1A polymorphism and mechanisms of fear 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(12):e490-.
Serotonin receptor 1A gene (HTR1A) knockout mice show pronounced defensive behaviour and increased fear conditioning to ambiguous conditioned stimuli. Such behaviour is a hallmark of pathological human anxiety, as observed in panic disorder with agoraphobia (PD/AG). Thus, variations in HTR1A might contribute to neurophysiological differences within subgroups of PD/AG patients. Here, we tested this hypothesis by combining genetic with behavioural techniques and neuroimaging. In a clinical multicentre trial, patients with PD/AG received 12 sessions of manualized cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and were genotyped for HTR1A rs6295. In four subsamples of this multicentre trial, exposure behaviour (n=185), defensive reactivity measured using a behavioural avoidance test (BAT; before CBT: n=245; after CBT: n=171) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data during fear conditioning were acquired before and after CBT (n=39). HTR1A risk genotype (GG) carriers more often escaped during the BAT before treatment. Exploratory fMRI results suggest increased activation of the amygdala in response to threat as well as safety cues before and after treatment in GG carriers. Furthermore, GG carriers demonstrated reduced effects of CBT on differential conditioning in regions including the bilateral insulae and the anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, risk genotype carriers demonstrated reduced self-initiated exposure behaviour to aversive situations. This study demonstrates the effect of HTR1A variation on defensive behaviour, amygdala activity, CBT-induced neural plasticity and normalization of defence behaviour in PD/AG. Our results, therefore, translate evidence from animal studies to humans and suggest a central role for HTR1A in differentiating subgroups of patients with anxiety disorders.
PMCID: PMC4270311  PMID: 25514753
15.  Identification of tetrahydrocarbazoles as novel multifactorial drug candidates for treatment of Alzheimer's disease 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(12):e489-.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder and the most frequent cause of dementia. To date, there are only a few approved drugs for AD, which show little or no effect on disease progression. Impaired intracellular calcium homeostasis is believed to occur early in the cascade of events leading to AD. Here, we examined the possibility of normalizing the disrupted calcium homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) store as an innovative approach for AD drug discovery. High-throughput screening of a small-molecule compound library led to the identification of tetrahydrocarbazoles, a novel multifactorial class of compounds that can normalize the impaired ER calcium homeostasis. We found that the tetrahydrocarbazole lead structure, first, dampens the enhanced calcium release from ER in HEK293 cells expressing familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD)-linked presenilin 1 mutations. Second, the lead structure also improves mitochondrial function, measured by increased mitochondrial membrane potential. Third, the same lead structure also attenuates the production of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides by decreasing the cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β-secretase, without notably affecting α- and γ-secretase cleavage activities. Considering the beneficial effects of tetrahydrocarbazoles addressing three key pathological aspects of AD, these compounds hold promise for the development of potentially effective AD drug candidates.
PMCID: PMC4270312  PMID: 25514752
16.  Quantitative proteomics of delirium cerebrospinal fluid 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e477-.
Delirium is a common cause and complication of hospitalization in older people, being associated with higher risk of future dementia and progression of existing dementia. However relatively little data are available on which biochemical pathways are dysregulated in the brain during delirium episodes, whether there are protein expression changes common among delirium subjects and whether there are any changes which correlate with the severity of delirium. We now present the first proteomic analysis of delirium cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and one of few studies exploring protein expression changes in delirium. More than 270 proteins were identified in two delirium cohorts, 16 of which were dysregulated in at least 8 of 17 delirium subjects compared with a mild Alzheimer's disease neurological control group, and 31 proteins were significantly correlated with cognitive scores (mini-mental state exam and acute physiology and chronic health evaluation III). Bioinformatics analyses revealed expression changes in several protein family groups, including apolipoproteins, secretogranins/chromogranins, clotting/fibrinolysis factors, serine protease inhibitors and acute-phase response elements. These data not only provide confirmatory evidence that the inflammatory response is a component of delirium, but also reveal dysregulation of protein expression in a number of novel and unexpected clusters of proteins, in particular the granins. Another surprising outcome of this work is the level of similarity of CSF protein profiles in delirium patients, given the diversity of causes of this syndrome. These data provide additional elements for consideration in the pathophysiology of delirium as well as potential biomarker candidates for delirium diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC4259987  PMID: 25369144
17.  Identifying individual differences of fluoxetine response in juvenile rhesus monkeys by metabolite profiling 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e478-.
Fluoxetine is the only psychopharmacological agent approved for depression by the US Food and Drug Administration for children and is commonly used therapeutically in a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders. Therapeutic response shows high individual variability, and severe side effects have been observed. In the current study we set out to identify biomarkers of response to fluoxetine as well as biomarkers that correlate with impulsivity, a measure of reward delay behavior and potential side effect of the drug, in juvenile male rhesus monkeys. The study group was also genotyped for polymorphisms of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), a gene that has been associated with psychiatric disorders. We used peripheral metabolite profiling of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from animals treated daily with fluoxetine or vehicle for one year. Fluoxetine response metabolite profiles and metabolite/reward delay behavior associations were evaluated using multivariate analysis. Our analyses identified a set of plasma and CSF metabolites that distinguish fluoxetine- from vehicle-treated animals and metabolites that correlate with impulsivity. Some metabolites displayed an interaction between fluoxetine and MAOA genotype. The identified metabolite biomarkers belong to pathways that have important functions in central nervous system physiology. Biomarkers of response to fluoxetine in the normally functioning brain of juvenile nonhuman primates may aid in finding predictors of response to treatment in young psychiatric populations and in progress toward the realization of a precision medicine approach in the area of neurodevelopmental disorders.
PMCID: PMC4259988  PMID: 25369145
18.  Long-term exposure to intranasal oxytocin in a mouse autism model 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e480-.
Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide involved in mammalian social behavior. It is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous studies in healthy rodents (prairie voles and C57BL/6J mice) have shown that there may be detrimental effects of long-term intranasal administration, raising the questions about safety and efficacy. To investigate the effects of OT on the aspects of ASD phenotype, we conducted the first study of chronic intranasal OT in a well-validated mouse model of autism, the BTBR T+ Itpr3tf/J inbred strain (BTBR), which displays low sociability and high repetitive behaviors. BTBR and C57BL/6J (B6) mice (N=94) were administered 0.8  IU/kg of OT intranasally, daily for 30 days, starting on day 21. We ran a well-characterized set of behavioral tasks relevant to diagnostic and associated symptoms of autism, including juvenile reciprocal social interactions, three-chambered social approach, open-field exploratory activity, repetitive self-grooming and fear-conditioned learning and memory, some during and some post treatment. Intranasal OT did not improve autism-relevant behaviors in BTBR, except for female sniffing in the three-chambered social interaction test. Male saline-treated BTBR mice showed increased interest in a novel mouse, both in chamber time and sniffing time, whereas OT-treated male BTBR mice showed a preference for the novel mouse in sniffing time only. No deleterious effects of OT were detected in either B6 or BTBR mice, except possibly for the lack of a preference for the novel mouse's chamber in OT-treated male BTBR mice. These results highlight the complexity inherent in understanding the effects of OT on behavior. Future investigations of chronic intranasal OT should include a wider dose range and early developmental time points in both healthy rodents and ASD models to affirm the efficacy and safety of OT.
PMCID: PMC4259989  PMID: 25386957
19.  Time-dependent metabolomic profiling of Ketamine drug action reveals hippocampal pathway alterations and biomarker candidates 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e481-.
Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist, has fast-acting antidepressant activities and is used for major depressive disorder (MDD) patients who show treatment resistance towards drugs of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) type. In order to better understand Ketamine's mode of action, a prerequisite for improved drug development efforts, a detailed understanding of the molecular events elicited by the drug is mandatory. In the present study we have carried out a time-dependent hippocampal metabolite profiling analysis of mice treated with Ketamine. After a single injection of Ketamine, our metabolomics data indicate time-dependent metabolite level alterations starting already after 2 h reflecting the fast antidepressant effect of the drug. In silico pathway analyses revealed that several hippocampal pathways including glycolysis/gluconeogenesis, pentose phosphate pathway and citrate cycle are affected, apparent by changes not only in metabolite levels but also connected metabolite level ratios. The results show that a single injection of Ketamine has an impact on the major energy metabolism pathways. Furthermore, seven of the identified metabolites qualify as biomarkers for the Ketamine drug response.
PMCID: PMC4259990  PMID: 25386958
20.  The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin–melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e479-.
Elevated whole-blood serotonin and decreased plasma melatonin (a circadian synchronizer hormone that derives from serotonin) have been reported independently in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here, we explored, in parallel, serotonin, melatonin and the intermediate N-acetylserotonin (NAS) in a large cohort of patients with ASD and their relatives. We then investigated the clinical correlates of these biochemical parameters. Whole-blood serotonin, platelet NAS and plasma melatonin were assessed in 278 patients with ASD, their 506 first-degree relatives (129 unaffected siblings, 199 mothers and 178 fathers) and 416 sex- and age-matched controls. We confirmed the previously reported hyperserotonemia in ASD (40% (35–46%) of patients), as well as the deficit in melatonin (51% (45–57%)), taking as a threshold the 95th or 5th percentile of the control group, respectively. In addition, this study reveals an increase of NAS (47% (41–54%) of patients) in platelets, pointing to a disruption of the serotonin-NAS–melatonin pathway in ASD. Biochemical impairments were also observed in the first-degree relatives of patients. A score combining impairments of serotonin, NAS and melatonin distinguished between patients and controls with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 85%. In patients the melatonin deficit was only significantly associated with insomnia. Impairments of melatonin synthesis in ASD may be linked with decreased 14-3-3 proteins. Although ASDs are highly heterogeneous, disruption of the serotonin-NAS–melatonin pathway is a very frequent trait in patients and may represent a useful biomarker for a large subgroup of individuals with ASD.
PMCID: PMC4259991  PMID: 25386956
21.  Codeine-induced hyperalgesia and allodynia: investigating the role of glial activation 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e482-.
Chronic morphine therapy has been associated with paradoxically increased pain. Codeine is a widely used opioid, which is metabolized to morphine to elicit analgesia. Prolonged morphine exposure exacerbates pain by activating the innate immune toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4) in the central nervous system. In silico docking simulations indicate codeine also docks to MD2, an accessory protein for TLR4, suggesting potential to induce TLR4-dependent pain facilitation. We hypothesized codeine would cause TLR4-dependent hyperalgesia/allodynia that is disparate from its opioid receptor-dependent analgesic rank potency. Hyperalgesia and allodynia were assessed using hotplate and von Frey tests at days 0, 3 and 5 in mice receiving intraperitoneal equimolar codeine (21 mg kg−1), morphine (20 mg kg−1) or saline, twice daily. This experiment was repeated in animals with prior partial nerve injury and in TLR4 null mutant mice. Interventions with interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) and glial-attenuating drug ibudilast were assessed. Analyses of glial activation markers (glial fibrillary acid protein and CD11b) in neuronal tissue were conducted at the completion of behavioural testing. Despite providing less acute analgesia (P=0.006), codeine induced similar hotplate hyperalgesia to equimolar morphine vs saline (−9.5 s, P<0.01 and −7.3 s, P<0.01, respectively), suggesting codeine does not rely upon conversion to morphine to increase pain sensitivity. This highlights the potential non-opioid receptor-dependent nature of codeine-enhanced pain sensitivity—although the involvement of other codeine metabolites cannot be ruled out. IL-1RA reversed codeine-induced hyperalgesia (P<0.001) and allodynia (P<0.001), and TLR4 knock-out protected against codeine-induced changes in pain sensitivity. Glial attenuation with ibudilast reversed codeine-induced allodynia (P<0.001), and thus could be investigated further as potential treatment for codeine-induced pain enhancement.
PMCID: PMC4259992  PMID: 25386959
22.  Deletion of α-neurexin II results in autism-related behaviors in mice 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e484-.
Autism is a common and frequently disabling neurodevelopmental disorder with a strong genetic basis. Human genetic studies have discovered mutations disrupting exons of the NRXN2 gene, which encodes the synaptic adhesion protein α-neurexin II (Nrxn2α), in two unrelated individuals with autism, but a causal link between NRXN2 and the disorder remains unclear. To begin to test the hypothesis that Nrxn2α deficiency contributes to the symptoms of autism, we employed Nrxn2α knockout (KO) mice that genetically model Nrxn2α deficiency in vivo. We report that Nrxn2α KO mice displayed deficits in sociability and social memory when exposed to novel conspecifics. In tests of exploratory activity, Nrxn2α KO mice displayed an anxiety-like phenotype in comparison with wild-type littermates, with thigmotaxis in an open field, less time spent in the open arms of an elevated plus maze, more time spent in the enclosure of an emergence test and less time spent exploring novel objects. However, Nrxn2α KO mice did not exhibit any obvious changes in prepulse inhibition or in passive avoidance learning. Real-time PCR analysis of the frontal cortex and hippocampus revealed significant decreases in the mRNA levels of genes encoding proteins involved in both excitatory and inhibitory transmission. Quantification of protein expression revealed that Munc18-1, encoded by Stxbp1, was significantly decreased in the hippocampus of Nrxn2α KO mice, which is suggestive of deficiencies in presynaptic vesicular release. Our findings demonstrate a causal role for the loss of Nrxn2α in the genesis of autism-related behaviors in mice.
PMCID: PMC4259993  PMID: 25423136
23.  Hippocampal structural and functional changes associated with electroconvulsive therapy response 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e483-.
Previous animal models and structural imaging investigations have linked hippocampal neuroplasticity to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) response, but the relationship between changes in hippocampal volume and temporal coherence in the context of ECT response is unknown. We hypothesized that ECT response would increase both hippocampal resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging connectivity and hippocampal volumes. Patients with major depressive disorder (n=19) were scanned before and after the ECT series. Healthy, demographically matched comparisons (n=20) were scanned at one-time interval. Longitudinal changes in functional connectivity of hippocampal regions and volumes of hippocampal subfields were compared with reductions in ratings of depressive symptoms. Right hippocampal connectivity increased (normalized) after the ECT series and correlated with depressive symptom reduction. Similarly, the volumes of the right hippocampal cornu ammonis (CA2/3), dentate gyrus and subiculum regions increased, but the hippocampal subfields were unchanged relative to the comparison group. Connectivity changes were not evident in the left hippocampus, and volume changes were limited to the left CA2/3 subfields. The laterality of the right hippocampal functional connectivity and volume increases may be related to stimulus delivery method, which was predominately right unilateral in this investigation. The findings suggested that increased hippocampal functional connectivity and volumes may be biomarkers for ECT response.
PMCID: PMC4259994  PMID: 25405780
24.  Hippocampal and behavioral dysfunctions in a mouse model of environmental stress: normalization by agomelatine 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(11):e485-.
Stress-induced alterations in neuronal plasticity and in hippocampal functions have been suggested to be involved in the development of mood disorders. In this context, we investigated in the hippocampus the activation of intracellular signaling cascades, the expression of epigenetic markers and plasticity-related genes in a mouse model of stress-induced hyperactivity and of mixed affective disorders. We also determined whether the antidepressant drug agomelatine, a MT1/MT2 melatonergic receptor agonist/5-HT2C receptor antagonist, could prevent some neurobiological and behavioral alterations produced by stress. C57BL/6J mice, exposed for 3 weeks to daily unpredictable socio-environmental stressors of mild intensity, were treated during the whole procedure with agomelatine (50 mg kg−1 per day, intraperitoneal). Stressed mice displayed robust increases in emotional arousal, vigilance and motor activity, together with a reward deficit and a reduction in anxiety-like behavior. Neurobiological investigations showed an increased phosphorylation of intracellular signaling proteins, including Atf1, Creb and p38, in the hippocampus of stressed mice. Decreased hippocampal level of the repressive epigenetic marks HDAC2 and H3K9me2, as well as increased level of the permissive mark H3K9/14ac suggested that chronic mild stress was associated with increased gene transcription, and clear-cut evidence was further indicated by changes in neuroplasticity-related genes, including Arc, Bcl2, Bdnf, Gdnf, Igf1 and Neurod1. Together with other findings, the present data suggest that chronic ultra-mild stress can model the hyperactivity or psychomotor agitation, as well as the mixed affective behaviors often observed during the manic state of bipolar disorder patients. Interestingly, agomelatine could normalize both the behavioral and the molecular alterations induced by stress, providing further insights into the mechanism of action of this new generation antidepressant drug.
PMCID: PMC4259995  PMID: 25423137
25.  Blood transcriptomic biomarkers in adult primary care patients with major depressive disorder undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(9):e442-.
An objective, laboratory-based diagnostic tool could increase the diagnostic accuracy of major depressive disorders (MDDs), identify factors that characterize patients and promote individualized therapy. The goal of this study was to assess a blood-based biomarker panel, which showed promise in adolescents with MDD, in adult primary care patients with MDD and age-, gender- and race-matched nondepressed (ND) controls. Patients with MDD received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and clinical assessment using self-reported depression with the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 (PHQ-9). The measures, including blood RNA collection, were obtained before and after 18 weeks of CBT. Blood transcript levels of nine markers of ADCY3, DGKA, FAM46A, IGSF4A/CADM1, KIAA1539, MARCKS, PSME1, RAPH1 and TLR7, differed significantly between participants with MDD (N=32) and ND controls (N=32) at baseline (q< 0.05). Abundance of the DGKA, KIAA1539 and RAPH1 transcripts remained significantly different between subjects with MDD and ND controls even after post-CBT remission (defined as PHQ-9 <5). The ROC area under the curve for these transcripts demonstrated high discriminative ability between MDD and ND participants, regardless of their current clinical status. Before CBT, significant co-expression network of specific transcripts existed in MDD subjects who subsequently remitted in response to CBT, but not in those who remained depressed. Thus, blood levels of different transcript panels may identify the depressed from the nondepressed among primary care patients, during a depressive episode or in remission, or follow and predict response to CBT in depressed individuals.
PMCID: PMC4198533  PMID: 25226551

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