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Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Nov 8;8(1):245. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0281-9.

Convergence of independent DISC1 mutations on impaired neurite growth via decreased UNC5D expression.

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Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, 02142, USA.
Department of Biochemistry, Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA.
Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


The identification of convergent phenotypes in different models of psychiatric illness highlights robust phenotypes that are more likely to be implicated in disease pathophysiology. Here, we utilize human iPSCs harboring distinct mutations in DISC1 that have been found in families with major mental illness. One mutation was engineered to mimic the consequences on DISC1 protein of a balanced translocation linked to mental illness in a Scottish pedigree; the other mutation was identified in an American pedigree with a high incidence of mental illness. Directed differentiation of these iPSCs using NGN2 expression shows rapid conversion to a homogenous population of mature excitatory neurons. Both DISC1 mutations result in reduced DISC1 protein expression, and show subtle effects on certain presynaptic proteins. In addition, RNA sequencing and qPCR showed decreased expression of UNC5D, DPP10, PCDHA6, and ZNF506 in neurons with both DISC1 mutations. Longitudinal analysis of neurite outgrowth revealed decreased neurite outgrowth in neurons with each DISC1 mutation, which was mimicked by UNC5D knockdown and rescued by transient upregulation of endogenous UNC5D. This study shows a narrow range of convergent phenotypes of two mutations found in families with major mental illness, and implicates dysregulated netrin signaling in DISC1 biology.

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