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      The Rat Homolog of the Schizophrenia Susceptibility Gene ZNF804A Is Highly Expressed during Brain Development, Particularly in Growth Cones


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          A single nucleotide polymorphism in the ZNF804A gene, rs1344706, is associated with schizophrenia. The polymorphism has been suggested to alter fetal expression of ZNF804A. It has also been reported to be associated with altered cortical functioning and neural connectivity in the brain. Since developmental mechanisms are suggested in the pathophysiology for schizophrenia, expression of Zfp804A, the rat homolog of ZNF804A, was investigated in the developing rat brain. We found that expression of Zfp804A in most brain regions is developmentally regulated and peaks around birth, where after it decreases towards adult levels. This time point is developmentally the equivalent to the second trimester of fetal development in humans. An exception to this expression pattern is the hippocampus where the expression of Zfp804A appears to increase again in the adult brain. Using laser capture and quantitative PCR we found that Zfp804A mRNA expression in the adult rat hippocampus is highest in the CA1 sub region, where the overall firing rates of neurons is higher than in the CA3 region. In cultured cortical neurons Zfp804A mRNA expression peaked at day 4 and then decreased. The ZFP804A protein expression was therefore investigated with immunochemistry in such cultures. Interestingly, before day 4, the protein is mostly found in the perinuclear region of the cell but at day 4, ZFP804A was instead found throughout the cell and particularly in the growth cones. In conclusion we demonstrate that Zfp804A increases in the rat brain at the time of birth, coinciding with neuronal differentiation. We also show that ZFP804A is localized to growth cones of growing neurites. These data implicate ZFP804A in growth cone function and neurite elongation. The polymorphism rs1344706 lowers expression of ZNF804A during prenatal brain development. This may affect ZNF804A’s role in cone function and neurite elongation leading to synaptic deficits and altered neural connectivity.

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          Arc/Arg3.1 is essential for the consolidation of synaptic plasticity and memories.

          Arc/Arg3.1 is robustly induced by plasticity-producing stimulation and specifically targeted to stimulated synaptic areas. To investigate the role of Arc/Arg3.1 in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory, we generated Arc/Arg3.1 knockout mice. These animals fail to form long-lasting memories for implicit and explicit learning tasks, despite intact short-term memory. Moreover, they exhibit a biphasic alteration of hippocampal long-term potentiation in the dentate gyrus and area CA1 with an enhanced early and absent late phase. In addition, long-term depression is significantly impaired. Together, these results demonstrate a critical role for Arc/Arg3.1 in the consolidation of enduring synaptic plasticity and memory storage.
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            Inhibition of activity-dependent arc protein expression in the rat hippocampus impairs the maintenance of long-term potentiation and the consolidation of long-term memory.

            It is widely believed that the brain processes information and stores memories by modifying and stabilizing synaptic connections between neurons. In experimental models of synaptic plasticity, such as long-term potentiation (LTP), the stabilization of changes in synaptic strength requires rapid de novo RNA and protein synthesis. Candidate genes, which could underlie activity-dependent plasticity, have been identified on the basis of their rapid induction in brain neurons. Immediate-early genes (IEGs) are induced in hippocampal neurons by high-frequency electrical stimulation that induces LTP and by behavioral training that results in long-term memory (LTM) formation. Here, we investigated the role of the IEG Arc (also termed Arg3.1) in hippocampal plasticity. Arc protein is known to be enriched in dendrites of hippocampal neurons where it associates with cytoskeletal proteins (Lyford et al., 1995). Arc is also notable in that its mRNA and protein accumulate in dendrites at sites of recent synaptic activity (Steward et al., 1998). We used intrahippocampal infusions of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides to inhibit Arc protein expression and examined the effect of this treatment on both LTP and spatial learning. Our studies show that disruption of Arc protein expression impairs the maintenance phase of LTP without affecting its induction and impairs consolidation of LTM for spatial water task training without affecting task acquisition or short-term memory. Thus, Arc appears to play a fundamental role in the stabilization of activity-dependent hippocampal plasticity.
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              Neural mechanisms of a genome-wide supported psychosis variant.

              Schizophrenia is a devastating, highly heritable brain disorder of unknown etiology. Recently, the first common genetic variant associated on a genome-wide level with schizophrenia and possibly bipolar disorder was discovered in ZNF804A (rs1344706). We show, by using an imaging genetics approach, that healthy carriers of rs1344706 risk genotypes exhibit no changes in regional activity but pronounced gene dosage-dependent alterations in functional coupling (correlated activity) of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) across hemispheres and with hippocampus, mirroring findings in patients, and abnormal coupling of amygdala. Our findings establish disturbed connectivity as a neurogenetic risk mechanism for psychosis supported by genome-wide association, show that rs1344706 or variation in linkage disequilibrium is functional in human brain, and validate the intermediate phenotype strategy in psychiatry.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                6 July 2015
                : 10
                : 7
                [001]Neurobiology Research, Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
                University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, ITALY
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: KHH ÅFS EB. Performed the experiments: KHH KR. Analyzed the data: KHH KR ÅFS EB. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KHH EB. Wrote the paper: KHH ÅFS EB.


                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 0, Pages: 13
                This work was supported by Lundbeckfonden (R67-A6538) and Fonden til lægevidenskabens fremme to EB. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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