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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 1;5(4):e9970. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009970.

Altered gene synchrony suggests a combined hormone-mediated dysregulated state in major depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


Coordinated gene transcript levels across tissues (denoted "gene synchrony") reflect converging influences of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors; hence they are informative of the biological state of an individual. So could brain gene synchrony also integrate the multiple factors engaged in neuropsychiatric disorders and reveal underlying pathologies? Using bootstrapped Pearson correlation for transcript levels for the same genes across distinct brain areas, we report robust gene transcript synchrony between the amygdala and cingulate cortex in the human postmortem brain of normal control subjects (n = 14; Control/Permutated data, p<0.000001). Coordinated expression was confirmed across distinct prefrontal cortex areas in a separate cohort (n = 19 subjects) and affected different gene sets, potentially reflecting regional network- and function-dependent transcriptional programs. Genewise regional transcript coordination was independent of age-related changes and array technical parameters. Robust shifts in amygdala-cingulate gene synchrony were observed in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD, denoted here "depression") (n = 14; MDD/Permutated data, p<0.000001), significantly affecting between 100 and 250 individual genes (10-30% false discovery rate). Biological networks and signal transduction pathways corresponding to the identified gene set suggested putative dysregulated functions for several hormone-type factors previously implicated in depression (insulin, interleukin-1, thyroid hormone, estradiol and glucocorticoids; p<0.01 for association with depression-related networks). In summary, we showed that coordinated gene expression across brain areas may represent a novel molecular probe for brain structure/function that is sensitive to disease condition, suggesting the presence of a distinct and integrated hormone-mediated corticolimbic homeostatic, although maladaptive and pathological, state in major depression.

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