Epigenetic Studies of Genomic Retroelements in Major Psychosis

Epigenetic Studies of Genomic

Retroelements in Major Psychosis

Pei-Xiang Kan, Violeta Popendikyte,

Zachary A. Kaminsky, Robert H. Yolken, Arturas Petronis

Schizophrenia Research 67 (2004)




This work is dedicated to the

exploration of the role of epigenetic (epiG) factors in major psychosis. 

One of the key functions of epigenetic modification of the genome of eukaryotic

cells is to suppress transcriptional activity of the retroelements. 

Examples of retroelements are endogenous retroviral sequences (ERVs), Alu’s,

and LINEs, among others, which as a rule are hypermethylated. 

There is evidence from schizophrenia (SCH) and other human complex diseases

that some of the genomic retroelements become transcribed in the affected

tissues.  Our goal was to screen DNA samples from post-mortem brain tissues

of individuals who were affected with major psychiatric illness for

retroelements that were located in the hypomethylated fraction of the

genomic DNA.  Over 100 Alu sequences were cloned, sequenced, and

maped to the human genome.  A substantial portion of the cloned Alu’s are

located close to or within the genes that may be interesting targets for further

genetic, transcription, and epigenetic studies.