The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
The purpose of this paper was to selectively review the literature on the role of epigenetics in mental illnesses. Aberrant epigenetic regulation has been clearly implicated in the aetiology of some human illnesses. In recent years a growing body of evidence has highlighted the possibility that epigenetics may also play a key role in the origins and expression of mental disorders. Epigenetic phenomena may help explain some of the complexity of mental illnesses and provide a basis for discovering novel pharmacological targets to treat these disorders.
The epigenetic down-regulation of genes is emerging as a possible underlying mechanism of the GABAergic neuron dysfunction in schizophrenia. For example, evidence has been presented to show that the promoters associated with reelin and GAD67 are down-regulated as a consequence of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT)-mediated hypermethylation. Using neuronal progenitor cells to study this regulation, we have previously demonstrated that DNMT inhibitors coordinately increase reelin and GAD67 mRNAs.
The role of methylation in the history of psychiatry has traversed a storied path. The original trans-methylation hypothesis was proposed at a time when chlorpromazine had been synthesized but not yet marketed as an antipsychotic (Thorazine). The premise was that abnormal metabolism led to the methylation of biogenic amines in the brains of schizophrenia patients and that these hallucinogenic compounds produced positive symptoms of the disease. At the time, some psychiatrists were interested in drugs such as mescaline and lysergic acid diethylamide that replicated clinical symptoms.
OBJECTIVE: To examine epigenetic processes linking childhood sex abuse to symptoms of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) in adulthood and to investigate the possibility that the link between childhood sex abuse and deoxyribonucleic acid methylation at the 5HTT promoter might represent a pathway of long-term impact on symptoms of ASPD. METHOD: Deoxyribonucleic acid was prepared from lymphoblast cell lines derived from 155 female participants in the latest wave of the Iowa Adoptee Study.
INTRODUCTION: HTR2A gene has been the subject of numerous studies in psychiatric genetics because LSD, which resembles serotonin causes psychosis and atypical antipsychotic drugs target the HTR2A receptor. However, evidence for the role of HTR2A polymorphism(s) in schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) has been elusive. We hypothesized that epigenetic dysregulation of HTR2A may be involved in psycho-pathogenesis and analyzed promoter DNA methylome and expression of HTR2A in SCZ, BD and control subjects.
Epigenetic modifications have been proposed to underlie age-related dysfunction and associated disorders. 5- hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) is a newly described epigenetic modification. It is generated by the oxidation of 5- methylcytosine (5-mC) by the ten-eleven translocation (TET) family of enzymes. Various studies have shown that 5-hmC is present in high levels in the brain. Its lower affinity to methyl-binding proteins as compared to 5-mC suggests that it might have a different role in the regulation of gene expression, while it is also implicated in the DNA demethylation process.
Psychiatric disorders affect approximately 10% of adults in North-America. The complex nature of these illnesses makes the search for their pathophysiology a challenge. However, studies have consistently shown that mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are common features across major psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Nevertheless, little is known about specific targets of oxidation in the brain.
Epidemiological evidence implies a role for chronic stress and stress-related disorders in the etiopathogenesis of sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although chronic stress exposure during various stages of life has been shown to exacerbate AD-related cognitive deficits and neuropathology in AD mouse models, the role of stress exposure during the prenatal period on AD development and progression remained to be investigated.
Covalent modifications of nucleotides, such as methylation or hydroxymethylation of cytosine, regulate gene expression. Early environmental risk factors play a role in mental disorders in adulthood. This may be in part mediated by epigenetic DNA modifications. Methods for comprehensive analysis of DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation include DNA modification methods such as bisulfite sequencing, or collection of methylated, hydroxymethylated, or unmethylated DNA by specific binding proteins, antibodies, or restriction enzymes, followed by sequencing or microarray analysis.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms related to altered social interactions/communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors. In addition to genetic risk, epigenetic mechanisms (which include DNA methylation/demethylation) are thought to be important in the etiopathogenesis of ASD.