Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
The polygenic nature of complex psychiatric disorders suggests a common pathway that may be involved in the down-regulation of multiple genes through an epigenetic mechanism. To investigate the role of methylation in down-regulating the expression of mRNAs that may be associated with the schizophrenia phenotype, we have adopted a cell-culture model amenable to this line of investigation.
Journal of Neural Transmission (Vienna, Austria: 1996)
DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) are involved within the epigenetic control of DNA methylation processes. Recently, it has been shown that the genomic DNA methylation in patients with alcoholism is increased. In the present controlled study we observed a significant decrease of mRNA expression of DNMT-3a and DNMT-3b when comparing alcoholic patients (n = 59) with healthy controls (n = 66): DNMT-3a (t = -2.38, p = 0.019), DNMT-3b (t = -2.65, p = 0.008). No significant differences were seen for DNMT-1 and Mbd-2 (Methyl-CpG-Binding-Domain protein 2) expression.
Reelin and glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67) mRNAs and protein levels are substantially reduced in postmortem brains of patients with schizophrenia. Increasing evidence suggests that the observed down-regulation of reelin and GAD67 gene expression may be caused by dysfunction of the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms operative in cortical GABAergic interneurons.
Among the most consistent results of studies of post-mortem brain tissue from schizophrenia patients (SZP) is the finding that in this disease, several genes expressed by GABAergic neurons are downregulated. This downregulation may be caused by hypermethylation of the relevant promoters in affected neurons. Indeed, increased numbers of GABAergic interneurons expressing DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) mRNA have been demonstrated in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of SZP using in situ hybridization.
In the cerebral prefrontal cortex (PFC), DNA-methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1), the enzyme that catalyzes the methylation of cytosine at carbon atoms in position 5 in CpG dinucleotides, is expressed selectively in GABAergic neurons and is upregulated in layers I and II of schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder patients with psychosis (BDP).
The role of DNA cytosine methylation, an epigenetic regulator of chromatin structure and function, during normal and pathological brain development and aging remains unclear. Here, we examined by MethyLight PCR the DNA methylation status at 50 loci, encompassing primarily 5' CpG islands of genes related to CNS growth and development, in temporal neocortex of 125 subjects ranging in age from 17 weeks of gestation to 104 years old. Two psychiatric disease cohorts--defined by chronic neurodegeneration (Alzheimer's) or lack thereof (schizophrenia)--were included.
In this review, we discuss changes in the regulation of gene expression in the central nervous system (CNS) associated with DNA (cytosine-5) methylation, chromatin remodeling and post-translational covalent modifications of histones. During brain development, abnormal intrinsic or extrinsic cues may compromise epigenetic processes regulating neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation and thus directly or indirectly could contribute to altered epiphenotypes leading to psychiatric disorders.
BACKGROUND: Epigenetic mechanisms may be involved in the reprogramming of gene expression in response to stressful stimuli. This investigation determined whether epigenetic phenomena might similarly be associated with suicide/depression. METHODS: The expression of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) mRNA was assessed in several brain regions of individuals who had committed suicide and had been diagnosed with major depression relative to that of individuals who had died suddenly as a result of factors other than suicide.
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.