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      Evidence for phenotypic plasticity in response to photic cues and the connection with genes of risk in schizophrenia

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          Numerous environmental factors have been identified as influential in the development of schizophrenia. Some are byproducts of modern life, yet others were present in our evolutionary past and persist to a lesser degree in the current era. The present study brings together published epidemiological data for schizophrenia and data on variables related to photic input for places of residence across geographical regions, using rainfall as an inverse, proxy measure for light levels. Data were gathered from the literature for two countries, the former Yugoslavia and Ireland, during a time in the early 20th century when mobility was relatively limited. The data for Yugoslavia showed a strong correlation between hospital census rates for schizophrenia (by place of birth) and annual rain ( r = 0.96, p = 0.008). In Ireland, the hospital census rates and first admissions for schizophrenia (by place of permanent residence) showed a trend for correlation with annual rain, reaching significance for 1st admissions when the rainfall data was weighted by the underlying population distribution ( r = 0.71, p = 0.047). In addition, across the years 1921–1945, birth-year variations in a spring quarter season-of-birth effect for schizophrenia in Ireland showed a trend for correlation with January-March rainfall ( r = 0.80, p ≤ 0.10). The data are discussed in terms of the effect of photoperiod on the gestation and behavior of offspring in animals, and the premise is put forth that vestigial phenotypic plasticity for such photic cues still exists in humans. Moreover, genetic polymorphisms of risk identified for psychotic disorders include genes modulated by photoperiod and sunlight intensity. Such a relationship between phenotypic plasticity in response to a particular environmental regime and subsequent natural selection for fixed changes in the environmentally responsive genes, has been well studied in animals and should not be discounted when considering human disease.

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          Variants of the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor gene are associated with red hair and fair skin in humans.

          Melanin pigmentation protects the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR). There are two types of melanin, the red phaeomelanin and the black eumelanin, both of which are present in human skin. Eumelanin is photoprotective whereas phaeomelanin, because of its potential to generate free radicals in response to UVR, may contribute to UV-induced skin damage. Individuals with red hair have a predominance of phaeomelain in hair and skin and/or a reduced ability to produce eumelanin, which may explain why they fail to tan and are at risk from UVR. In mammals the relative proportions of phaeomelanin and eumelanin are regulated by melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH), which acts via its receptor (MC1R), on melanocytes, to increase the synthesis of eumelanin and the product of the agouti locus which antagonises this action. In mice, mutations at either the MC1R gene or agouti affect the pattern of melanogenesis resulting in changes in coat colour. We now report the presence of MC1R gene sequence variants in humans. These were found in over 80% of individuals with red hair and/or fair skin that tans poorly but in fewer than 20% of individuals with brown or black hair and in less than 4% of those who showed a good tanning response. Our findings suggest that in humans, as in other mammals, the MC1R is a control point in the regulation of pigmentation phenotype and, more importantly, that variations in this protein are associated with a poor tanning response.
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            Schizophrenia: manifestations, incidence and course in different cultures. A World Health Organization ten-country study.

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              A test of the "flexible stem" model of evolution: ancestral plasticity, genetic accommodation, and morphological divergence in the threespine stickleback radiation.

              If an ancestral stem group repeatedly colonizes similar environments, developmental plasticity specific to that group should consistently give rise to similar phenotypes. Parallel selection on those similar phenotypes could lead to the repeated evolution of characteristic ecotypes, a property common to many adaptive radiations. A key prediction of this "flexible stem" model of adaptive radiation is that patterns of phenotypic divergence in derived groups should mirror patterns of developmental plasticity in their common ancestor. The threespine stickleback radiation provides an excellent opportunity to test this prediction because the marine form is representative of the ancestral stem group, which has repeatedly given rise to several characteristic ecotypes. We examined plasticity of several aspects of shape and trophic morphology in response to diets characteristic of either the derived benthic ecotype or the limnetic ecotype. When marine fish were reared on alternative diets, plasticity of head and mouth shape paralleled phenotypic divergence between the derived ecotypes, supporting the flexible stem model. Benthic and limnetic fish exhibited patterns of plasticity similar to those of the marine population; however, some differences in population means were present, as well as subtle differences in shape plasticity in the benthic population, indicating a role for genetic accommodation in this system.

                Author and article information

                Front Behav Neurosci
                Front Behav Neurosci
                Front. Behav. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                13 May 2013
                09 July 2013
                : 7
                MillerBio Baltimore, MD, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Tim Karl, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia

                Reviewed by: Randy J. Nelson, The Ohio State University, USA; Miou Zhou, University of California, Los Angeles, USA; Tim Karl, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia

                *Correspondence: Christine L. Miller, MillerBio, 6508 Beverly Rd., Baltimore, MD 21239, USA e-mail: cmiller@ 123456millerbio.com
                Copyright © 2013 Miller.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 136, Pages: 14, Words: 12416
                Original Research Article


                schizophrenia, pyschoses, epidemiology, photoperiod, natural light, prenatal, melanotropin, vitamin d


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