Melbourne Veterinary School - Research Publications

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    Cholinergic connectivity: it's implications for psychiatric disorders
    Scarr, E ; Gibbons, AS ; Neo, J ; Udawela, M ; Dean, B (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2013-05-03)
    Acetylcholine has been implicated in both the pathophysiology and treatment of a number of psychiatric disorders, with most of the data related to its role and therapeutic potential focusing on schizophrenia. However, there is little thought given to the consequences of the documented changes in the cholinergic system and how they may affect the functioning of the brain. This review looks at the cholinergic system and its interactions with the intrinsic neurotransmitters glutamate and gamma-amino butyric acid as well as those with the projection neurotransmitters most implicated in the pathophysiologies of psychiatric disorders; dopamine and serotonin. In addition, with the recent focus on the role of factors normally associated with inflammation in the pathophysiologies of psychiatric disorders, links between the cholinergic system and these factors will also be examined. These interfaces are put into context, primarily for schizophrenia, by looking at the changes in each of these systems in the disorder and exploring, theoretically, whether the changes are interconnected with those seen in the cholinergic system. Thus, this review will provide a comprehensive overview of the connectivity between the cholinergic system and some of the major areas of research into the pathophysiologies of psychiatric disorders, resulting in a critical appraisal of the potential outcomes of a dysregulated central cholinergic system.
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    Validating reference genes using minimally transformed qpcr data: findings in human cortex and outcomes in schizophrenia
    Dean, B ; Udawela, M ; Scarr, E (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2016-05-20)
    BACKGROUND: It is common practice, when using quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), to normalise levels of mRNA to reference gene mRNA which, by definition, should not vary between tissue, with any disease aetiology or after drug treatments. The complexity of human CNS means it unlikely that any gene could fulfil these criteria. METHODS: To address this issue we measured levels of mRNA for six potential reference genes (GAPDH, PPIA, SNCA, NOL9, TFB1M and SKP1) in three cortical regions (Brodmann's areas (BA) 8, 9 and 44) from 30 subjects with schizophrenia and 30 age and sex matched controls. We used a structured statistical approach to examine the characteristics of these data to determine their suitability as reference genes. We also analysed our data using reference genes selected by rank as defined using the average of the standard deviation of pair-gene ΔCt and the BestKeeper, NormFinder and geNorm algorithms to determine if they suggested the same reference genes. RESULTS: Our minimally derived data showed that levels of mRNA for all of the six genes varied between cortical regions and therefore no gene fulfilled the absolute requirements for use as reference genes. As levels of some mRNA for some genes did not vary with diagnoses within a cortical region from subjects with schizophrenia compared to controls, we normalised levels of mRNA for all the other genes to mRNA for one, two or three reference genes in each cortical region. This showed that using the geometric mean of at least two reference genes gave more reproducible results. Finally, using the reference gene ranking protocols the average of the standard deviation of pair-gene ΔCt, BestKeeper, NormFinder and geNorm we showed that these approaches ranked potential reference genes differently. We then showed that outcomes of comparing data from subjects with schizophrenia and controls varied depending on the reference genes chosen. CONCLUSIONS: Our data shows that the selection of reference genes is a significant component of qPCR study design and therefore the process by which reference genes are selected must be clearly listed as a potential confound in studying gene expression in human CNS. This should include showing that, using minimally derived qPCR data, levels of mRNA for proposed reference genes does not vary with variables such as diagnoses and CNS region.
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    Aberrant expression of microRNAs as biomarker for schizophrenia: from acute state to partial remission, and from peripheral blood to cortical tissue
    Lai, C-Y ; Lee, S-Y ; Scarr, E ; Yu, Y-H ; Lin, Y-T ; Liu, C-M ; Hwang, T-J ; Hsieh, MH ; Liu, C-C ; Chien, Y-L ; Udawela, M ; Gibbons, AS ; Everall, IP ; Hwu, H-G ; Dean, B ; Chen, WJ (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2016-01-19)
    Based on our previous finding of a seven-miRNA (hsa-miR-34a, miR-449a, miR-564, miR-432, miR-548d, miR-572 and miR-652) signature as a potential biomarker for schizophrenia, this study aimed to examine if hospitalization could affect expressions of these miRNAs. We compared their expression levels between acute state and partial remission state in people with schizophrenia (n=48) using quantitative PCR method. Further, to examine whether the blood and brain show similar expression patterns, the expressions of two miRNAs (hsa-miR-34a and hsa-miR-548d) were examined in the postmortem brain tissue of people with schizophrenia (n=25) and controls (n=27). The expression level of the seven miRNAs did not alter after ~2 months of hospitalization with significant improvement in clinical symptoms, suggesting the miRNAs could be traits rather than state-dependent markers. The aberrant expression seen in the blood of hsa-miR-34a and hsa-miR-548d were not present in the brain samples, but this does not discount the possibility that the peripheral miRNAs could be clinically useful biomarkers for schizophrenia. Unexpectedly, we found an age-dependent increase in hsa-miR-34a expressions in human cortical (Brodmann area 46 (BA46)) but not subcortical region (caudate putamen). The correlation between hsa-miR-34a expression level in BA46 and age was much stronger in the controls than in the cases, and the corresponding correlation in the blood was only seen in the cases. The association between the miRNA dysregulations, the disease predisposition and aging warrants further investigation. Taken together, this study provides further insight on the candidate peripheral miRNAs as stable biomarkers for the diagnostics of schizophrenia.
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    Autophagy has a key role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia
    Merenlender-Wagner, A ; Malishkevich, A ; Shemer, Z ; Udawela, M ; Gibbons, A ; Scarr, E ; Dean, B ; Levine, J ; Agam, G ; Gozes, I (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2015-02-01)
    Autophagy is a process preserving the balance between synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components and is therefore essential for neuronal survival and function. Several key proteins govern the autophagy pathway including beclin1 and microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3). Here, we show a brain-specific reduction in beclin1 expression in postmortem hippocampus of schizophrenia patients, not detected in peripheral lymphocytes. This is in contrast with activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) and ADNP2, which we have previously found to be deregulated in postmortem hippocampal samples from schizophrenia patients, but that now showed a significantly increased expression in lymphocytes from related patients, similar to increases in the anti-apoptotic, beclin1-interacting, Bcl2. The increase in ADNP was associated with the initial stages of the disease, possibly reflecting a compensatory effect. The increase in ADNP2 might be a consequence of neuroleptic treatment, as seen in rats subjected to clozapine treatment. ADNP haploinsufficiency in mice, which results in age-related neuronal death, cognitive and social dysfunction, exhibited reduced hippocampal beclin1 and increased Bcl2 expression (mimicking schizophrenia and normal human aging). At the protein level, ADNP co-immunoprecipitated with LC3B suggesting a direct association with the autophagy process and paving the path to novel targets for drug design.
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    SELENBP1 expression in the prefrontal cortex of subjects with schizophrenia
    Udawela, M ; Money, TT ; Neo, J ; Seo, MS ; Scarr, E ; Dean, B ; Everall, IP (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2015-08-04)
    Selenium binding protein 1 (SELENBP1) messenger RNA (mRNA) has previously been shown to be upregulated in the brain and blood from subjects with schizophrenia. We aimed to validate these findings in a new cohort using real-time PCR in Brodmann's Area (BA) 9, and to determine the disease specificity of increased SELENBP1 expression by measuring SELENBP1 mRNA in subjects with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. We then extended the study to include other cortical regions such as BA8 and BA44. SELENBP1 mRNA was higher in BA9 (P = 0.001), BA8 (P = 0.003) and BA44 (P = 0.0007) from subjects with schizophrenia. Conversely, in affective disorders, there was no significant difference in SELENBP1 mRNA in BA9 (P = 0.67), suggesting that the upregulation may be diagnosis specific. Measurement of SELENBP1 protein levels showed that changes in mRNA did not translate to changes in protein. In addition, chronic treatment of rats with antipsychotics did not significantly affect the expression of Selenbp1 in the cortex (P = 0.24). Our data show that elevated SELENBP1 transcript expression is widespread throughout the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia, and confirm that this change is a consistent feature of schizophrenia and not a simple drug effect.
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    Changed gene expression in subjects with schizophrenia and low cortical muscarinic M1 receptors predicts disrupted upstream pathways interacting with that receptor
    Scarr, E ; Udawela, M ; Thomas, EA ; Dean, B (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2018-02-01)
    We tested the hypothesis that, compared with subjects with no history of psychiatric illness (controls), changes in gene expression in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex from two subgroups of subjects with schizophrenia, one with a marked deficit in muscarinic M1 receptors (muscarinic receptor-deficit schizophrenia (MRDS)), would identify different biochemical pathways that would be affected by their aetiologies. Hence, we measured levels of cortical (Brodmann area 9) mRNA in 15 MRDS subjects, 15 subjects with schizophrenia but without a deficit in muscarinic M1 receptors (non-MRDS) and 15 controls using Affymetrix Exon 1.0 ST arrays. Levels of mRNA for 65 genes were significantly different in the cortex of subjects with MRDS and predicted changes in pathways involved in cellular movement and cell-to-cell signalling. Levels of mRNA for 45 genes were significantly different in non-MRDS and predicted changes in pathways involved in cellular growth and proliferation as well as cellular function and maintenance. Changes in gene expression also predicted effects on pathways involved in amino acid metabolism, molecular transport and small-molecule biochemistry in both MRDS and non-MRDS. Overall, our data argue a prominent role for glial function in MRDS and neurodevelopment in non-MRDS. Finally, the interactions of gene with altered levels of mRNA in the cortex of subjects with MRDS suggest many of their affects will be upstream of the muscarinic M1 receptor. Our study gives new insight into the molecular pathways affected in the cortex of subjects with MRDS and supports the notion that studying subgroups within the syndrome of schizophrenia is worthwhile.
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    Changed frontal pole gene expression suggest altered interplay between neurotransmitter, developmental, and inflammatory pathways in schizophrenia
    Scarr, E ; Udawela, M ; Dean, B (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2018-02-20)
    Schizophrenia (Sz) probably occurs after genetically susceptible individuals encounter a deleterious environmental factor that triggers epigenetic mechanisms to change CNS gene expression. To determine if omnibus changes in CNS gene expression are present in Sz, we compared mRNA levels in the frontal pole (Brodmann's area (BA) 10), the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 9) and cingulate cortex (BA 33) from 15 subjects with Sz and 15 controls using the Affymetrix™ Human Exon 1.0 ST Array. Differences in mRNA levels (±≥20%; p < 0.01) were identified (JMP Genomics 5.1) and used to predict pathways and gene x gene interactions that would be affected by the changes in gene expression using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. There was significant variation in mRNA levels with diagnoses for 566 genes in BA 10, 65 genes in BA 9 and 40 genes in BA 33. In Sz, there was an over-representation of genes with changed expression involved in inflammation and development in BA 10, cell morphology in BA 9 and amino acid metabolism and small molecule biochemistry in BA 33. Using 94 genes with altered levels of expression in BA 10 from subjects with Sz, it was possible to construct an interactome of proven direct gene x gene interactions that was enriched for genes in inflammatory, developmental, oestrogen, serotonergic, cholinergic and NRG1 regulated pathways. Our data shows complex, regionally specific changes in cortical gene expression in Sz that are predicted to affect homeostasis between biochemical pathways already proposed to be important in the pathophysiology of the disorder.
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    Changed cortical risk gene expression in major depression and shared changes in cortical gene expression between major depression and bipolar disorders
    Scarr, E ; Udawela, M ; Dean, B (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2019-12-01)
    BACKGROUND: Mood disorders likely occur in someone with a genetic predisposition who encounters a deleterious environmental factor leading to dysregulated physiological processes due to genetic mutations and epigenetic mechanisms altering gene expression. To gain data to support this hypothesis, we measured levels of gene expression in three cortical regions known to be affected by the pathophysiologies of major depression and bipolar disorders. METHODS: Levels of RNA were measured using the Affymetrix™ Human Exon 1.0 ST Array in Brodmann's areas 9, 10 and 33 (left hemisphere) from individuals with major depression, bipolar disorder and age- and sex-matched controls with changed expression taken as a fold change in RNA ⩾1.2 at p < 0.01. Data were analysed using JMP® genomics 6.0 and the probable biological consequences of changes in gene expression determined using Core and Pathway Designer Analyses in Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. RESULTS: There were altered levels of RNA in Brodmann's area 9 (major depression = 424; bipolar disorder = 331), Brodmann's area 10 (major depression = 52; bipolar disorder = 24) and Brodmann's area 33 (major depression = 59 genes; bipolar disorder = 38 genes) in mood disorders. No gene was differentially expressed in all three regions in either disorder. There was a high correlation between fold changes in levels of RNA from 112 genes in Brodmann's area 9 from major depression and bipolar disorder (r2 = 0.91, p < 0.001). Levels of RNA for four risk genes for major depression were lower in Brodmann's area 9 in that disorder. CONCLUSION: Our data argue that there are complex regional-specific changes in cortical gene expression in major depression and bipolar disorder that includes the expression of some risk genes for major depression in those with that disorder. It could be hypothesised that the common changes in gene expression in major depression and bipolar disorder are involved in the genesis of symptoms common to both disorders.
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    Studies on Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthase 1: Lower Levels in Schizophrenia and After Treatment with Antipsychotic Drugs in Conjunction with Aspirin
    Dean, B ; Gibbons, A ; Gogos, A ; Udawela, M ; Thomas, E ; Scarr, E (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2018-03-01)
    Background: Antipsychotic drugs plus aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which targets prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 1 (PTGS1: COX1), improved therapeutic outcomes when treating schizophrenia. Our microarray data showed higher levels of PTGS1 mRNA in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex from subjects with schizophrenia of long duration of illness, suggesting aspirin plus antipsychotic drugs could have therapeutic effects by lowering PTGS1 expression in the cortex of subjects with the disorder. Methods: We used Western blotting to measure levels of PTSG1 protein in human postmortem CNS, rat and mouse cortex, and cells in culture. Results: Compared with controls, PTGS1 levels were 41% lower in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (P<.01), but not the anterior cingulate or frontal pole, from subjects with schizophrenia. Levels of PTGS1 were not changed in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in mood disorders or in the cortex of rats treated with antipsychotic drugs. There was a strong trend (P=.05) to lower cortical PTGS1 10 months after mice were treated postnatally with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid sodium salt (Poly I:C), consistent with cortical PTGS1 being lower in adult mice after exposure to an immune activator postnatally. In CCF-STTG1 cells, a human-derived astrocytic cell line, aspirin caused a dose-dependent decrease in PTGS1 that was decreased further with the addition of risperidone. Conclusions: Our data suggest low levels of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex PTGS1 could be associated with the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and improved therapeutic outcome from treating schizophrenia with antipsychotic drugs augmented with aspirin may be because such treatment lowers cortical PTGS1.