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Genome Res. 2010 Apr;20(4):403-12. doi: 10.1101/gr.101956.109. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

Coexpression network analysis of neural tissue reveals perturbations in developmental processes in schizophrenia.

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  • 1Scripps Translational Science Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


We performed integrated gene coexpression network analysis on two large microarray-based brain gene expression data sets generated from the prefrontal cortex obtained post-mortem from 101 subjects, 47 subjects with schizophrenia and 54 normal control subjects, ranging in age from 19 to 81 years. Twenty-eight modules of coexpressed genes with functional interpretations were detected in both normal subjects and those with schizophrenia. Significant overlap of "case" and "control" module composition was observed, indicating that extensive differences in underlying molecular connectivity are not likely driving pathology in schizophrenia. Modules of coexpressed genes were characterized according to disease association, cell type specificity, and the effects of aging. We find that genes with altered expression in schizophrenia clustered into distinct coexpression networks and that these were associated primarily with neurons. We further identified a robust effect of age on gene expression modules that differentiates normal subjects from those with schizophrenia. In particular, we report that normal age-related decreases in genes related to central nervous system developmental processes, including neurite outgrowth, neuronal differentiation, and dopamine-related cellular signaling, do not occur in subjects with schizophrenia during the aging process. Extrapolating these findings to earlier stages of development supports the concept that schizophrenia pathogenesis begins early in life and is associated with a failure of normal decreases in developmental-related gene expression. These findings provide a novel mechanism for the "developmental" hypothesis of schizophrenia on a molecular level.

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