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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2011 Dec;156B(8):869-87. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.31239. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Similarities and differences in peripheral blood gene-expression signatures of individuals with schizophrenia and their first-degree biological relatives.

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Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology & Neurobiology Laboratory, Medical Genetics Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences & Neuroscience and Physiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


Several studies have evaluated the potential utility of blood-based whole-transcriptome signatures as a source of biomarkers for schizophrenia. This endeavor has been complicated by the fact that individuals with schizophrenia typically differ from appropriate comparison subjects on more than just the presence of the disorder; for example, individuals with schizophrenia typically receive antipsychotic medications, and have been dealing with the sequelae of this chronic illness for years. The inability to control such factors introduces a considerable degree of uncertainty in the results to date. To overcome this, we performed a blood-based gene-expression profiling study of schizophrenia patients (n = 9) as well as their unmedicated, nonpsychotic, biological siblings (n = 9) and unaffected comparison subjects (n = 12). The unaffected biological siblings, who may harbor some of the genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, exhibited a host of gene-expression differences from unaffected comparison subjects, many of which were shared by their schizophrenic siblings, perhaps indicative of underlying risk factors for the disorder. Several genes that were dysregulated in both individuals with schizophrenia and their siblings related to nucleosome and histone structure and function, suggesting a potential epigenetic mechanism underlying the risk state for the disorder. Nonpsychotic siblings also displayed some differences from comparison subjects that were not found in their affected siblings, suggesting that the dysregulation of some genes in peripheral blood may be indicative of underlying protective factors. This study, while exploratory, illustrated the potential utility and increased informativeness of including unaffected first-degree relatives in research in pursuit of peripheral biomarkers for schizophrenia.

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