Whereas some rare genetic variants convey high risk for schizophrenia (SZ), common alleles conveying even moderate risk remain elusive. Long interspersed element-1s (L1) are mobile retrotransposons comprising ∼17% of the human genome. L1 retrotransposition can cause somatic mosaicism during neurodevelopment by insertional mutagenesis. We hypothesized that, compared to controls, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia (PDS) may have increased numbers of deleterious L1 insertions, perhaps occurring de novo, in brain-expressed genes of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) neurons. Neuronal and non-neuronal nuclei were separated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting from postmortem DLPFC of 36 PDS and 26 age-matched controls. Genomic sequences flanking the 3′-side of L1s were amplified from neuronal DNA, and neuronal L1 libraries were sequenced. Aligned sequences were analyzed for L1 insertions using custom bioinformatics programs. Ontology and pathway analyses were done on lists of genes putatively disrupted by L1s in PDS and controls. Cellular or population allele frequencies of L1s were assessed by droplet digital PCR or Taqman genotyping. We observed a statistically significant increase in the proportion of intragenic novel L1s in DLPFC of PDS. We found over-representation of L1 insertions within the gene ontologies 'cell projection' and 'postsynaptic membrane' in the gene lists derived from PDS samples, but not from controls. Cellular allele frequencies of examined L1 insertions indicated heterozygosity in genomes of DLPFC cells. An L1 within ERI1 exoribonuclease family member 3 (ERI3) was found to associate with SZ. These results extend prior work documenting increased L1 genetic burden in the brains of PDS and also identify unique genes that may provide new insight into the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health