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Hum Genet. 2012 Mar;131(3):443-51. doi: 10.1007/s00439-011-1089-3. Epub 2011 Sep 17.

Association study of the KCNJ3 gene as a susceptibility candidate for schizophrenia in the Chinese population.

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Laboratory for Molecular Psychiatry, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan.


We recently reported the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of schizophrenia in the Japanese population. In that study, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs3106653) in the KCNJ3 (potassium inwardly rectifying channel, subfamily J, member 3) gene located at 2q24.1 showed association with schizophrenia in two independent sample sets. KCNJ3, also termed GIRK1 or Kir3.1, is a member of the G protein-activated inwardly rectifying K(+) channel (GIRK) group. GIRKs are widely distributed in the brain and play an important role in regulating neural excitability through the activation of various G protein-coupled receptors. In this study, we set out to examine this association using a different population. We first performed a gene-centric association study of the KCNJ3 gene, by genotyping 38 tagSNPs in the Chinese population. We detected nine SNPs that displayed significant association with schizophrenia (lowest P = 0.0016 for rs3106658, Global significance = 0.036). The initial marker SNP (rs3106653) examined in our prior GWAS in the Japanese population also showed nominally significant association in the Chinese population (P = 0.028). Next, we analyzed transcript levels in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of postmortem brains from patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and from healthy controls, using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. We found significantly lower KCNJ3 expression in postmortem brains from schizophrenic and bipolar patients compared with controls. These data suggest that the KCNJ3 gene is genetically associated with schizophrenia in Asian populations and add further evidence to the "channelopathy theory of psychiatric illnesses".

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