NOVEL ALPHA7 NICOTINIC RECEPTOR ISOFORMS AND DEFICIENT CHOLINERGIC TRANSCRIPTION IN SCHIZOPHRENIA
Genes Brain Behav. 2007 May 14; [Epub ahead of print]
Severance EG, Yolken RH
Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Abnormal alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activity contributes to sensory gating and cognitive deficits in schizophrenic individuals. Negligible differences in alpha7 mRNA levels between disease and control states have led to conclusions that cholinergic dysfunction in schizophrenia (SZ) must occur post-transcriptionally. Alternatively, we propose that the dysregulation of splice variants of the alpha7 receptor could account for cholinergic deficiencies observed in this disease. Here, we isolated multiple alpha7 splice variants including exon deletions and those associated with a novel 124-127 base insertion following exon 4. Transcripts containing this new exon originated from sense strand-oriented RNA (vs. antisense), and in silico translations produces putative subunits with unique amino termini. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses indicated that one novel isoform was significantly downregulated (P=0.03) in post-mortem prefrontal cortex of individuals with SZ (n=35) compared with controls (n= 34). Ten brain regions (cerebellum, thalamus, corpus callosum, caudate, putamen and five areas of the cortex) were further screened for alpha 7 isoforms in three individuals of each group. Semiquantitative analyses showed that each alpha mRNA subtype was present in each brain region, but all were particularly deficient in the corpus callosum in schizophrenics vs. controls (P=0.002 to 0.05 for different isoforms). Our data demonstrate that alpha7 transcription is altered in several ways in SZ, suggesting that transcription-level mechanisms could account in part for the impaired cholinergic neurotransmission observed in this disease.