New gene for schizophrenia discovered

Thursday, 11 July, 2019

New gene for schizophrenia discovered

An 18-year schizophrenia study — made possible by the recruitment, diagnosis and DNA screening of thousands of people in India — has identified a new clue in the quest for causes of the illness and potential treatments. The research has been published in JAMA Psychiatry.

A collaboration between The University of Queensland (UQ) and a team of Indian researchers led by Professor Rangaswamy Thara, co-founder and director of Chennai’s Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), searched the genomes of more than 3000 individuals and found those with schizophrenia were more likely to have a particular genetic variation.

As noted by Professor Bryan Mowry, from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), such studies have predominantly been done in populations with European ancestry, with more than 100 schizophrenia-associated variants identified previously. “Looking at other populations can highlight different parts of the genome with a more robust association with the disease,” Prof Mowry said.

“This study identified a gene called NAPRT1 that encodes an enzyme involved in vitamin B3 metabolism. We were also able to find this gene in a large genomic dataset of schizophrenia patients with European ancestry.

“When we knocked out the NAPRT1 gene in zebrafish, brain development of the fish was impaired. We are now working to understand more deeply how this gene functions in the brain.”

Prof Mowry said much of the variation in schizophrenia, which occurs in about 1% of the population, is due to genetic factors. “There are now a multitude of genetic variants linked to schizophrenia, but we don’t yet know what the hundreds of genes involved do,” he said.

“The next phase is to study their function in normal and diseased states using computational approaches and animal models, such as the zebrafish.

“We’d like to look further into populations in India to increase our sample size to see if we can replicate this result and discover additional variants that might be involved.

“Our studies aim to shed more light on what makes people susceptible to schizophrenia and possible treatments for the future.”

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