Hidden gene gives hope for improving brain function

February 25, 2015

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 25, 2015 -- U.S. and Australian scientists have found the mechanism a novel gene uses to affect brain function and elicit behavior related to neuropsychiatric disease.

Timothy W. Bredy, assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior at UC Irvine, and colleagues at the University of Queensland and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney discovered that a gene called Gomafu might be key to understanding how our brain rapidly responds to stressful experiences.

By looking across the entire genome for genes that are responsive to experience, they found Gomafu - which has recently been associated with schizophrenia - to be dynamically regulated in the adult brain.

"When Gomafu is turned off, this results in the kind of behavioural changes that are seen in anxiety and schizophrenia," said Bredy, who is also affiliated with UCI's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and UQ's Queensland Brain Institute.

The gene is a long, noncoding RNA and was found within a section of the genome most commonly associated with "junk" DNA - the 98 per cent of the human genome that, until recently, was thought to have no function. This is the first time long, noncoding RNA activity has been detected in the brain in response to experience

"Early biologists thought that DNA sequences that do not make protein were remnants of our evolutionary history, but the fact is these sequences are actually highly dynamic and exert a profound influence on us," Bredy said.

Bredy and colleagues also found that noncoding genes such as Gomafu might represent a potent surveillance system that has evolved so that the brain can rapidly respond to changes in the environment. He added that a disruption of this network in the brain might contribute to the development of neuropsychiatric disorders.

These findings also will help to resolve the current controversy surrounding genome-wide association studies, where the majority of gene mutations that correlate with specific neuropsychiatric disorders are found within vast stretches of noncoding DNA sequences.

The scientists hope this finding will enable better prediction of vulnerability and resilience to developing a neuropsychiatric disease, with the primary goal to garner better treatment approaches across the lifespan.
-end-
Study results appeared online Feb. 10 in Biological Psychiatry. Paola A. Spadaro, Charlotte R. Flavell, Jocelyn Widagdo, Vikram S. Ratnu, Michael Troup and Chikako Ragan with the University of Queensland, and John S. Mattick with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research contributed to the study, which was supported by the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia, the Australian Research Council and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (grant 1R21MH103812).

University of California - Irvine

Related Schizophrenia Articles from Brightsurf:

Schizophrenia: When the thalamus misleads the ear
Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Synapsy National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) have succeeded in linking the onset of auditory hallucinations - one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia - with the abnormal development of certain substructures of a region deep in the brain called the thalamus.

Unlocking schizophrenia
New research, led by Prof. LIU Bing and Prof. JIANG Tianzi from the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators have recently developed a novel imaging marker that may help in the personalized medicine of psychiatric disorders.

Researchers discover second type of schizophrenia
In a study of more than 300 patients from three continents, over one third had brains that looked similar to healthy people.

New clues into the genetic origins of schizophrenia
The first genetic analysis of schizophrenia in an ancestral African population, the South African Xhosa, appears in the Jan.

Dietary supplement may help with schizophrenia
A dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of a holistic approach complementing antipsychotic medication, according to a UCL researcher.

Schizophrenia: Adolescence is the game-changer
Schizophrenia may be related to the deletion syndrome. However, not everyone who has the syndrome necessarily develops psychotic symptoms.

Study suggests overdiagnosis of schizophrenia
In a small study of patients referred to the Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic (EPIC), Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that about half the people referred to the clinic with a schizophrenia diagnosis didn't actually have schizophrenia.

The ways of wisdom in schizophrenia
Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine report that persons with schizophrenia scored lower on a wisdom assessment than non-psychiatric comparison participants, but that there was considerable variability in levels of wisdom, and those with higher scores displayed fewer psychotic symptoms.

Recognizing the uniqueness of different individuals with schizophrenia
Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia differ greatly from one another. Researchers from Radboud university medical center, along with colleagues from England and Norway, have demonstrated that very few identical brain differences are shared amongst different patients.

Resynchronizing neurons to erase schizophrenia
Today, a decisive step in understanding schizophrenia has been taken.

Read More: Schizophrenia News and Schizophrenia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.