Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Genomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Suspect Gene Corrupts Neural Connections

Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Last Updated: Monday, August 18, 2014
Bookmark and Share
“Diseases of synapses” demo’d in a dish - NIH-funded study.

Researchers have long suspected that major mental disorders are genetically-rooted diseases of synapses - the connections between neurons. Now, investigators supported in part by the National Institutes of Health have demonstrated in patients’ cells how a rare mutation in a suspect gene disrupts the turning on and off of dozens of other genes underlying these connections.

“Our results illustrate how genetic risk, abnormal brain development and synapse dysfunction can corrupt brain circuitry at the cellular level in complex psychiatric disorders,” explained Hongjun Song, Ph.D. External Web Site Policy, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, a grantee of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a funder of the study.

Song and colleagues, from universities in the United States, China, and Japan, report on their discovery in the journal Nature, August 18, 2014.

“The approach used in this study serves as a model for linking genetic clues to brain development,” said NIMH director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

Most major mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, are thought to be caused by a complex interplay of multiple genes and environmental factors. However, studying rare cases of a single disease-linked gene that runs in a family can provide shortcuts to discovery. Decades ago, researchers traced a high prevalence of schizophrenia and other major mental disorders - which often overlap genetically - in a Scottish clan to mutations in the gene DISC1 (Disrupted In Schizophrenia-1). But until now, most of what’s known about cellular effects of such DISC1 mutations has come from studies in the rodent brain.

To learn how human neurons are affected, Song’s team used a disease-in-a-dish technology called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). A patient’s skin cells are first induced to revert to stem cells. Stem cells play a critical role in development of the organism by transforming into the entire range of specialized cells which make up an adult. In this experiment, these particular “reverted” stem cells were coaxed to differentiate into neurons, which could be studied developing and interacting in a petri dish. This makes it possible to pinpoint, for example, how a particular patient’s mutation might impair synapses. Song and colleagues studied iPSCs from four members of an American family affected by DISC1-linked schizophrenia and genetically related mental disorders.

Strikingly, iPSC-induced neurons, of a type found in front brain areas implicated in psychosis, expressed 80 percent less of the protein made by the DISC1 gene in family members with the mutation, compared to members without the mutation. These mutant neurons showed deficient cellular machinery for communicating with other neurons at synapses.

The researchers traced these deficits to errant expression of genes known to be involved in synaptic transmission, brain development, and key extensions of neurons where synapses are located. Among these abnormally expressed genes were 89 previously linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and other major mental disorders. This was surprising, as DISC1’s role as a hub that regulates expression of many genes implicated in mental disorders had not previously been appreciated, say the researchers.

The clincher came when researchers experimentally produced the synapse deficits by genetically engineering the DISC1 mutation into otherwise normal iPSC neurons - and, conversely, corrected the synapse deficits in DISC1 mutant iPSC neurons by genetically engineering a fully functional DISC1 gene into them. This established that the DISC1 mutation, was, indeed the cause of the deficits.

The results suggest a common disease mechanism in major mental illnesses that integrates genetic risk, aberrant neurodevelopment, and synapse dysfunction. The overall approach may hold promise for testing potential treatments to correct synaptic deficits, say the researchers.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tick Genome Reveals Secrets of a Successful Bloodsucker
NIH-funded study could lead to new tick control methods.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Genomic Signature Shared by Five Types of Cancer
National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a striking signature in tumor DNA that occurs in five different types of cancer.
Monday, February 08, 2016
Cancer Drug Target Visualized at Atomic Resolution
New study using cryo-electron microscopy shows how potential drugs could inhibit cancer.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Genome-Wide Study Yields Markers of Lithium Response
An international consortium of scientists has identified a stretch of chromosome that is associated with responsiveness to the mood-stabilizing medication lithium among patients with bipolar disorder.
Monday, February 01, 2016
Schizophrenia’s Strongest Known Genetic Risk Deconstructed
Suspect gene may trigger runaway synaptic pruning during adolescence – NIH-funded study.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
NIH Genome Sequencing Program Targets the Genomic Bases of Common, Rare Disease
The National Institutes of Health will fund a set of genome sequencing and analysis centers whose research will focus on understanding the genomic bases of common and rare human diseases.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Three Glaucoma-Related Genes Discovered
NIH-funded genetics analysis of glaucoma is largest to date.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
International Study Reveals New Genetic Clues to AMD
NIH-funded research provides framework for future studies of AMD biology, therapy.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Dementia Linked to Deficient DNA Repair
Mutant forms of breast cancer factor 1 (BRCA1) are associated with breast and ovarian cancers but according to new findings, in the brain the normal BRCA1 gene product may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Batten Disease may Benefit from Gene Therapy
NIH-funded animal study suggests one-shot approach to injecting genes.
Friday, November 13, 2015
NIH Researchers Link Single Gene Variation to Obesity
Variation in the BDNF gene may affect brain’s regulation of appetite, study suggests.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Researchers Identify Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Charting Genetic Variation Across the Globe
An international team of scientists has created the world’s largest catalog of human genetic differences in populations around the globe.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Gene Therapy Staves Off Blindness from Retinitis Pigmentosa in Canine Model
NIH-funded study suggests therapeutic window may extend to later-stage disease.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Scientific News
NIH Researchers Identify Striking Genomic Signature for Cancer
Institute has identified striking signature shared by five types of cancer.
CRI Develops Innovative Approach for Identifying Lung Cancer
Institute has developed innovative approach for identifying processes that fuel tumor growth in lung cancer patients.
The Spice of Life
Scientists discover important genetic source of human diversity.
Removing Race from Human Genetic Research
A group of scientists are urging their colleagues to take a step forward and stop using racial categories when researching and studying human genetics.
Tick Genome Reveals Secrets of a Successful Bloodsucker
NIH-funded study could lead to new tick control methods.
Light Signals from Living Cells
Fluorescent protein markers delivered under high pressure.
Counting Cancer-busting Oxygen Molecules
Researchers from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), an Australian Research Centre of Excellence, have shown that nanoparticles used in combination with X-rays, are a viable method for killing cancer cells deep within the living body.
Genomic Signature Shared by Five Types of Cancer
National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a striking signature in tumor DNA that occurs in five different types of cancer.
Crowdfunding the Fight Against Cancer
From budding social causes to groundbreaking businesses to the next big band, crowdfunding has helped connect countless worthy projects with like-minded people willing to support their efforts, even in small ways. But could crowdfunding help fight cancer?
Switch Lets Salmonella Fight, Evade Immune System
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered a molecular regulator that allows salmonella bacteria to switch from actively causing disease to lurking in a chronic but asymptomatic state called a biofilm.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!