Analysis of miR-137 expression and rs1625579 in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

Guella I, Sequeira A, Rollins B, Morgan L, Torri F, van Erp TG, Myers RM, Barchas JD, Schatzberg AF, Watson SJ, Akil H, Bunney WE, Potkin SG, Macciardi F, Vawter MP
J Psychiatr Res. 2013; 47(9):1215-21.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that act as potent regulators of gene expression. A recent GWAS reported the rs1625579 SNP, located downstream of miR-137, as the strongest new association with schizophrenia [Ripke S, Sanders AR, Kendler KS, Levinson DF, Sklar P, Holmans PA, et al. Genome-wide association study identifies five new schizophrenia loci. Nat Genet 2011;43:969-76.]. Prior to this GWAS finding, a schizophrenia imaging-genetic study found miR-137 target genes significantly enriched for association with activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) [Potkin SG, Macciardi F, Guffanti G, Fallon JH, Wang Q, Turner JA, et al. Identifying gene regulatory networks in schizophrenia. Neuroimage 2010;53:839-47.]. We investigated the expression levels of miR-137 and three candidate target genes (ZNF804A, CACNA1C, TCF4) in the DLPFC of postmortem brain tissue from 2 independent cohorts: (1) 26 subjects (10 control (CTR), 7 schizophrenia (SZ), 9 bipolar disorder (BD)) collected at the UCI brain bank; and (2) 99 subjects (33 CTR, 35 SZ, 31 BD) obtained from the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI). MiR-137 expression in the DLPFC did not differ between diagnoses. We also explored the relationship between rs1625579 genotypes and miR-137 expression. Significantly lower miR-137 expression levels were observed in the homozygous TT subjects compared to TG and GG subjects in the control group (30% decrease, p-value = 0.03). Moreover, reduced miR-137 levels in TT subjects corresponded to increased levels of the miR-137 target gene TCF4. The miR-137 expression pattern in 9 brain regions was significant for regional effect (ANOVA p-value = 1.83E-12), with amygdala and hippocampus having the highest miR-137 expression level. In conclusion, decreased miR-137 expression is associated with the SZ risk allele of rs1625579, and potential regulation of TCF4, another SZ candidate gene. This study offers additional support for involvement of miR-137 and downstream targets as mechanisms of risk for psychiatric disorders.