Long-read sequencing reveals the complex splicing profile of the psychiatric risk gene CACNA1C in human brain.
ABSTRACT: RNA splicing is a key mechanism linking genetic variation with psychiatric disorders. Splicing profiles are particularly diverse in brain and difficult to accurately identify and quantify. We developed a new approach to address this challenge, combining long-range PCR and nanopore sequencing with a novel bioinformatics pipeline. We identify the full-length coding transcripts of CACNA1C in human brain. CACNA1C is a psychiatric risk gene that encodes the voltage-gated calcium channel CaV1.2. We show that CACNA1C's transcript profile is substantially more complex than appreciated, identifying 38 novel exons and 241 novel transcripts. Importantly, many of the novel variants are abundant, and predicted to encode channels with altered function. The splicing profile varies between brain regions, especially in cerebellum. We demonstrate that human transcript diversity (and thereby protein isoform diversity) remains under-characterised, and provide a feasible and cost-effective methodology to address this. A detailed understanding of isoform diversity will be essential for the translation of psychiatric genomic findings into pathophysiological insights and novel psychopharmacological targets.
Project description:Calcium channel subunits, including CACNA1C, have been associated with multiple psychiatric disorders. Specifically, genome wide association studies (GWAS) have repeatedly identified the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1006737 in intron 3 of CACNA1C to be strongly associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Here, we show that rs1006737 marks a quantitative trait locus for CACNA1C transcript levels. We test 16 SNPs in high linkage disequilibrium with rs1007637 and find one, rs4765905, consistently showing allele-dependent regulatory function in reporter assays. We find allele-specific protein binding for 13 SNPs including rs4765905. Using protein microarrays, we identify several proteins binding ?3 SNPs, but not control sequences, suggesting possible functional interactions and combinatorial haplotype effects. Finally, using circular chromatin conformation capture, we show interaction of the disease-associated region including the 16 SNPs with the CACNA1C promoter and other potential regulatory regions. Our results elucidate the pathogenic relevance of one of the best-supported risk loci for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Project description:Large-scale genome-wide association studies have consistently shown that genetic variation in CACNA1C, a gene that encodes calcium voltage-gated channel subunit alpha1C, increases risk for psychiatric disorders. CACNA1C encodes the Cav1.2 subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, which themselves have been functionally implicated in a broad spectrum of neuropsychiatric syndromes. Research has concentrated on uncovering the underlying biological mechanisms that could be responsible for this increased risk. This review presents an overview of recent findings regarding Cacna1c variation in animal models, particularly focusing on behavioral phenotypes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as cognition, anxiety and depressive phenotypes, and fear conditioning. The impact of reduced gene dosage of Cacna1c on adult hippocampal neurogenesis is also assessed, including new data from a novel Cacna1c+/- rat model.
Project description:CONTEXT:The CACNA1C gene (alpha-1C subunit of the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel) has been identified as a risk gene for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but the mechanism of association has not been explored. OBJECTIVE:To identify the neural system mechanism that explains the genetic association between the CACNA1C gene and psychiatric illness using neuroimaging and human brain expression. DESIGN:We used blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activation in circuitries related to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia by comparing CACNA1C genotype groups among healthy subjects. We tested the effect of genotype on messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of CACNA1C in postmortem human brain. A case-control analysis was used to determine the association of CACNA1C genotype with schizophrenia. SETTING:National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. PATIENTS:Healthy men and women of white race/ethnicity participated in the fMRI study. Postmortem samples from normal human brains were used for the brain expression study. Patients with schizophrenia and healthy subjects were used in the case-control analysis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:BOLD fMRI, mRNA levels in postmortem brain samples, and genetic association with schizophrenia. RESULTS:The risk-associated single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs1006737) in CACNA1C predicted increased hippocampal activity during emotional processing (P = .001 uncorrected, P((false recovery rate [FDR])) = .05, z = 3.20) and increased prefrontal activity during executive cognition (P = 2.8e-05 uncorrected, P(FDR) = .01, z = 4.03). The risk-associated SNP also predicted increased expression of CACNA1C mRNA in human brain (P = .002). CACNA1C was associated with schizophrenia in our case-control sample (odds ratio, 1.77; P = .03). CONCLUSIONS:The risk-associated SNP in CACNA1C maps to circuitries implicated in genetic risk for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Its effects in human brain expression implicate a molecular and neural system mechanism for the clinical genetic association.
Project description:Deficits in perception of emotional prosody have been described in patients with affective disorders at behavioral and neural level. In the current study, we use an imaging genetics approach to examine the impact of CACNA1C, one of the most promising genetic risk factors for psychiatric disorders, on prosody processing on a behavioral, functional and microstructural level. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) we examined key areas involved in prosody processing, i.e. the amygdala and voice areas, in a healthy population. We found stronger activation to emotional than neutral prosody in the voice areas and the amygdala, but CACNA1C rs1006737 genotype had no influence on fMRI activity. However, significant microstructural differences (i.e. mean diffusivity) between CACNA1C rs1006737 risk allele carriers and non carriers were found in the amygdala, but not the voice areas. These modifications in brain architecture associated with CACNA1C might reflect a neurobiological marker predisposing to affective disorders and concomitant alterations in emotion perception.
Project description:One of the most consistent genetic findings to have emerged from bipolar disorder genome wide association studies (GWAS) is with CACNA1C, a gene that codes for the ?(1C) subunit of the Ca(v)1.2 voltage-dependent L-type calcium channel (LTCC). Genetic variation in CACNA1C have also been associated with depression, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, as well as changes in brain function and structure in control subjects who have no diagnosable psychiatric illness. These data are consistent with a continuum of shared neurobiological vulnerability between diverse-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) defined-neuropsychiatric diseases. While involved in numerous cellular functions, Ca(v)1.2 is most frequently implicated in coupling of cell membrane depolarization to transient increase of the membrane permeability for calcium, leading to activation and, potentially, changes in intracellular signaling pathway activity, gene transcription, and synaptic plasticity. Ca(v)1.2 is involved in the proper function of numerous neurological circuits including those involving the hippocampus, amygdala, and mesolimbic reward system, which are strongly implicated in psychiatric disease pathophysiology. A number of behavioral effects of LTCC inhibitors have been described including antidepressant-like behavioral actions in rodent models. Clinical studies suggest possible treatment effects in a subset of patients with mood disorders. We review the genetic structure and variation of CACNA1C, discussing relevant human genetic and clinical findings, as well as the biological actions of Ca(v)1.2 that are most relevant to psychiatric illness.
Project description:Recognition and correct interpretation of facial emotion is essential for social interaction and communication. Previous studies have shown that impairments in this cognitive domain are common features of several psychiatric disorders. Recent association studies identified CACNA1C as one of the most promising genetic risk factors for psychiatric disorders and previous evidence suggests that the most replicated risk variant in CACNA1C (rs1006737) is affecting emotion recognition and processing. However, studies investigating the influence of rs1006737 on this intermediate phenotype in healthy subjects at the behavioral level are largely missing to date. Here, we applied the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" test, a facial emotion recognition paradigm in a cohort of 92 healthy individuals to address this question. Whereas accuracy was not affected by genotype, CACNA1C rs1006737 risk-allele carries (AA/AG) showed significantly slower mean response times compared to individuals homozygous for the G-allele, indicating that healthy risk-allele carriers require more information to correctly identify a facial emotion. Our study is the first to provide evidence for an impairing behavioral effect of the CACNA1C risk variant rs1006737 on facial emotion recognition in healthy individuals and adds to the growing number of studies pointing towards CACNA1C as affecting intermediate phenotypes of psychiatric disorders.
Project description:CACNA1C, a gene that encodes an alpha-1 subunit of L-type voltage-gated calcium channels, has been strongly associated with psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. An important objective is to understand how variation in this gene can lead to an increased risk of psychopathology. Altered associative learning has also been implicated in the pathology of psychiatric disorders, particularly in the manifestation of psychotic symptoms. In this study, we utilize auditory-cued fear memory paradigms in order to investigate whether associative learning is altered in rats hemizygous for the Cacna1c gene. Cacna1c hemizygous (Cacna1c+/-) rats and their wild-type littermates were exposed to either delay, trace, or unpaired auditory fear conditioning. All rats received a Context Recall (24 h post-conditioning) and a Cue Recall (48 h post-conditioning) to test their fear responses. In the delay condition, which results in strong conditioning to the cue in wild-type animals, Cacna1c+/- rats showed increased fear responses to the context. In the trace condition, which results in strong conditioning to the context in wild-type animals, Cacna1c+/- rats showed increased fear responses to the cue. Finally, in the unpaired condition, Cacna1c+/- rats showed increased fear responses to both context and cue. These results indicate that Cacna1c heterozygous rats show aberrantly enhanced fear responses to inappropriate cues, consistent with key models of psychosis.
Project description:The pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders involves complex interactions between genetic and environmental risk factors. Confirmed by several genome-wide association studies, Cacna1c represents one of the most robustly replicated psychiatric risk genes. Besides genetic predispositions, environmental stress such as childhood maltreatment also contributes to enhanced disease vulnerability. Both, Cacna1c gene variants and stressful life events are associated with morphological alterations in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Emerging evidence suggests impaired mitochondrial bioenergetics as a possible underlying mechanism of these regional brain abnormalities. In the present study, we simulated the interaction of psychiatric disease-relevant genetic and environmental factors in rodents to investigate their potential effect on brain mitochondrial function using a constitutive heterozygous Cacna1c rat model in combination with a four-week exposure to either post-weaning social isolation, standard housing, or social and physical environmental enrichment. Mitochondria were isolated from the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus to evaluate their bioenergetics, membrane potential, reactive oxygen species production, and respiratory chain complex protein levels. None of these parameters were considerably affected in this particular gene-environment setting. These negative results were very robust in all tested conditions demonstrating that Cacna1c depletion did not significantly translate into altered bioenergetic characteristics. Thus, further investigations are required to determine the disease-related effects on brain mitochondria.
Project description:Genetic variation in CACNA1C, which encodes the alpha-1 subunit of Cav1.2 L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs), has been strongly linked to risk for psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. How genetic variation in CACNA1C contributes to risk for these disorders is however not fully known. Both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are associated with impairments in reversal learning (RL), which may contribute to symptoms seen in these conditions. We used a translational RL paradigm to investigate whether genetic variation in CACNA1C affects RL in both humans and transgenic rats. Associated changes in gene expression were explored using in situ hybridization and quantitative PCR in rats and the BRAINEAC online human database. Risk-associated genetic variation in CACNA1C in healthy human participants was associated with impairments in RL. Consistent with this finding, rats bearing a heterozygous deletion of Cacna1c were impaired in an analogous touchscreen RL task. We investigated the possible molecular mechanism underlying this impairment and found that Cacna1c +/- rats show decreased expression of Bdnf in prefrontal cortex. Examination of BRAINEAC data showed that human risk-associated genetic variation in CACNA1C is also associated with altered expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the prefrontal cortex in humans. These results indicate that genetic variation in CACNA1C may contribute to risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by impacting behavioral flexibility, potentially through altered regulation of BDNF expression in the prefrontal cortex. Tests of RL may be useful for translational studies and in the development of therapies targeting VGCCs.
Project description:Psychiatric disorders have clear heritable risk. Several large-scale genome-wide association studies have revealed a strong association between susceptibility for psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disease, schizophrenia and major depression, and a haplotype located in an intronic region of the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) subunit gene CACNA1C (peak associated SNP rs1006737), making it one of the most replicable and consistent associations in psychiatric genetics. In the current study, we used induced human neurons to reveal a functional phenotype associated with this psychiatric risk variant. We generated induced human neurons, or iN cells, from more than 20 individuals harboring homozygous risk genotypes, heterozygous or homozygous non-risk genotypes at the rs1006737 locus. Using these iNs, we performed electrophysiology and quantitative PCR experiments that demonstrated increased L-type VGCC current density as well as increased mRNA expression of CACNA1C in iNs homozygous for the risk genotype, compared with non-risk genotypes. These studies demonstrate that the risk genotype at rs1006737 is associated with significant functional alterations in human iNs, and may direct future efforts at developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of psychiatric disease.