Jumping DNA in the brain may be a cause of schizophrenia

Stretches of DNA called retrotransposons, often dubbed "junk DNA", might play an important role in schizophrenia. In a study published today in the journal Neuron, a Japanese team revealed that LINE-1 retrotransposons are abnormally abundant in the schizophrenia brain, modify the expression of genes related to schizophrenia during brain development, and may be one of the causes of schizophrenia.

Retrotransposons are short sequences of DNA that autonomously amplify and move around the genome. One class of retrotransposons named Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements (LINE) make up a large part of the eukaryotic genome and it is believed that they may contribute to a number of disorders and diseases such as cancer.

LINE-1 have been shown to be more abundant in cells than in other cells in the body in adults, providing evidence for enhanced activity of LINE-1 in the human brain. However, the role played by LINE-1 in mental disorders, and in particular , has remained unclear.

The team led by Dr Kazuya Iwamoto from the University of Tokyo and Dr Tadafumi Kato from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute demonstrated that the number of LINE-1 copies is elevated in the post-mortem brains of patients with schizophrenia. They show using mouse and macaque models for schizophrenia and iPS cells that exposure to during development, as well as the presence of genetic risk factors for schizophrenia, can lead to increased levels of LINE-1 in neurons. The authors reveal employing whole genome analysis that in LINE-1 reinserts into genes involved in synaptic function or schizophrenia and may result in disruptions in their normal functions.

"Our findings strongly suggest that abnormal, enhanced retrotransposition of LINE-1 in neurons, triggered by environmental factors and/or combined with a factor, plays a defining role in schizophrenia," conclude the authors.

"This study proposes a brand new mechanism of pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Previously, schizophrenia was regarded as a disease caused by gene-environment interactions, but our study shows that the environment can alter the genome and may contribute to the disease," explains Tadafumi Kato.


Explore further

Research shows a genetic overlap in schizophrenia and cognitive ability

More information: "Increased L1 Retrotransposition in the Neuronal Genome in Schizophrenia" Neuron, 2013 DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2013.10.053
Journal information: Neuron

Provided by Tokyo University
Citation: Jumping DNA in the brain may be a cause of schizophrenia (2014, January 2) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-12-dna-brain-schizophrenia.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 04, 2014
paper published in :
Increased L1 Retrotransposition in the Neuronal Genome in Schizophrenia
in neuron of 02 January 2014
http://www.scienc...13010052
To study the mechanism of L1 transposition, we examined perinatal environmental risk factors for schizophrenia in animal models and observed an increased L1 copy number after immune activation by poly-I:C or epidermal growth factor. These findings suggest that hyperactive retrotransposition of L1 in neurons triggered by environmental and/or genetic risk factors may contribute to the susceptibility and pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more