18 March 2013. The MIR137 gene influences the structure of the brain in people with schizophrenia, and the onset of their illness, according to a report published March 5 in Molecular Psychiatry. Ever since MIR137 came to light in 2011 in a genomewide hunt for genes associated with schizophrenia, researchers have been trying to understand what exactly this molecule does. One version of MIR137 increases risk for schizophrenia, but the path from gene to disorder is unclear.
The new study looked to see how this risk version of MIR137 tracked with different features of schizophrenia. Led by James Kennedy and Aristotle Voineskos of the University of Toronto in Canada, the researchers found that people with two risk versions of MIR137 had abnormal brain structures, including a region crucial for learning and memory, and the bundles of connections carrying information between different parts of the brain. The researchers also found that these people became ill three years younger than people with schizophrenia who had at least one non-risk version of MIR137. The researchers suggest that MIR137 acts in concert with other schizophrenia risk genes to perturb the workings of the brain. (For more details on this study, see SRF related news story.)—Michele Solis.
Lett TA, Chakavarty MM, Felsky D, Brandl EJ, Tiwari AK, Gonçalves VF, Rajji TK, Daskalakis ZJ, Meltzer HY, Lieberman JA, Lerch JP, Mulsant BH, Kennedy JL, Voineskos AN. The genome-wide supported microRNA-137 variant predicts phenotypic heterogeneity within schizophrenia. Mol Psychiatry. 2013 Mar 5. Abstract