Background: The main challenge in the study of schizophrenia is its high heterogeneity. While it is generally accepted that there exist several biological mechanisms that may define distinct schizophrenia subtypes, they have not been identified yet. We performed comprehensive gene expression analysis to search for molecular signals that differentiate schizophrenia patients from healthy controls and examined whether an identified signal was concentrated in a subgroup of the patients. Methods: Transcriptome sequencing of 14 superior temporal gyrus (STG) samples of subjects with schizophrenia and 15 matched controls from the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) was performed. Differential expression and pathway enrichment analysis results were compared to an independent cohort. Replicability was tested on 6 additional independent datasets. Results: The 2 STG cohorts showed high replicability. Pathway enrichment analysis of the down-regulated genes pointed to proteasome-related pathways. Meta-analysis of differential expression identified down-regulation of 12 of 39 proteasome subunit genes in schizophrenia. The signal of proteasome subunits down-regulation was replicated in 6 additional datasets (overall 8 cohorts with 267 schizophrenia and 266 control samples, from 5 brain regions). The signal was concentrated in a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia. Conclusions: We detected global down-regulation of proteasome subunits in a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia. We hypothesize that the down-regulation of proteasome subunits leads to proteasome dysfunction that causes accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins, which has been recently detected in a subgroup of schizophrenia patients. Thus, down-regulation of proteasome subunits might define a biological subtype of schizophrenia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a 2014 Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Grant, the Leir Charitable Foundation, the Veterans Administration Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, and the National Institutes of Health Neurobiobank (HHSN271201300031).
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- gene expression
- integrated analysis
- postmortem brain samples
- ubiquitin proteasome system