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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 25;8(7):e70302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070302. Print 2013.

Population-specific haplotype association of the postsynaptic density gene DLG4 with schizophrenia, in family-based association studies.

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Laboratory for Molecular Psychiatry, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan.


The post-synaptic density (PSD) of glutamatergic synapses harbors a multitude of proteins critical for maintaining synaptic dynamics. Alteration of protein expression levels in this matrix is a marked phenomenon of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, where cognitive functions are impaired. To investigate the genetic relationship of genes expressed in the PSD with schizophrenia, a family-based association analysis of genetic variants in PSD genes such as DLG4, DLG1, PICK1 and MDM2, was performed, using Japanese samples (124 pedigrees, n = 376 subjects). Results showed a significant association of the rs17203281 variant from the DLG4 gene, with preferential transmission of the C allele (p = 0.02), although significance disappeared after correction for multiple testing. Replication analysis of this variant, found no association in a Chinese schizophrenia cohort (293 pedigrees, n = 1163 subjects) or in a Japanese case-control sample (n = 4182 subjects). The DLG4 expression levels between postmortem brain samples from schizophrenia patients showed no significant changes from controls. Interestingly, a five marker haplotype in DLG4, involving rs2242449, rs17203281, rs390200, rs222853 and rs222837, was enriched in a population specific manner, where the sequences A-C-C-C-A and G-C-C-C-A accumulated in Japanese (p = 0.0009) and Chinese (p = 0.0007) schizophrenia pedigree samples, respectively. However, this could not be replicated in case-control samples. None of the variants in other examined candidate genes showed any significant association in these samples. The current study highlights a putative role for DLG4 in schizophrenia pathogenesis, evidenced by haplotype association, and warrants further dense screening for variants within these haplotypes.

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