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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e41215. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041215. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Measuring the maturity of the fast-spiking interneuron transcriptional program in autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

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  • 1Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.



Emerging evidence suggests that fast-spiking (FS) interneurons are disrupted in multiple neuropsychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. FS cells, which are the primary source of synaptic inhibition, are critical for temporally organizing brain activity, regulating brain maturation, and modulating critical developmental periods in multiple cortical systems. Reduced expression of parvalbumin, a marker of mature FS cells, has been reported in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and in mouse models of schizophrenia and autism. Although these results suggest that FS cells may be immature in neuropsychiatric disease, this possibility had not previously been formally assessed.


This study used time-course global expression data from developing FS cells to create a maturation index that tracked with the developmental age of purified cortical FS cells. The FS cell maturation index was then applied to global gene expression data from human cortex to estimate the maturity of the FS cell developmental program in the context of various disease states. Specificity of the index for FS cells was supported by a highly significant correlation of maturation index measurements with parvalbumin expression levels that withstood correction for multiple covariates.


Results suggest the FS cell developmental gene expression program is immature in autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. More broadly, the current study indicates that cell-type specific maturation indices can be used to measure the maturity of developmental programs even in data from mixed cell types such as those found in brain homogenates.

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