CHRNA7 and CHRFAM7A mRNAs: Co-localized and their expression levels altered in the postmortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in major psychiatric disorders

Yasuto Kunii, Wenyu Zhang, Qing Xu, Thomas M. Hyde, Whitney McFadden, Joo Heon Shin, Amy Deep-Soboslay, Tianzhang Ye, Chao Li, Joel E. Kleinman, Kuan Hong Wang, Barbara K. Lipska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: CHRNA7, coding a-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (a7 nAChR), is involved in cognition through interneuron modulation of dopamine and glutamate signaling. CHRNA7 and its partially duplicated chimeric gene CHRFAM7A have been implicated in schizophrenia through linkage and association studies. Method: Expression of CHRNA7 and CHRFAM7A mRNA was measured in the postmortem prefrontal cortex in more than 700 subjects, including patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and normal comparison subjects. The effects of antipsychotics and nicotine, as well as associations of CHRNA7 SNPs with gene expression, were explored. Fluorescent in-situ hybridizationwasused to examine coexpression of both transcripts in the human cortex. Results: CHRFAM7A expression and CHRFAM7A/CHRNA7 ratios were higher in fetal compared with postnatal life, whereas CHRNA7 expression was relatively stable. CHRFAM7A expression was significantly elevated in all diagnostic groups, while CHRNA7 expression was reduced in the schizophrenia group and increased in the major depression group compared with the comparison group. CHRFAM7A/CHRNA7 ratios were significantly increased in the schizophrenia and bipolar disorder groups compared with the comparison group. Therewasnoeffect of nicotine or antipsychotics and no association of SNPs in CHRNA7 with expression. CHRNA7 and CHRFAM7A mRNAs were expressed in the same neuronal nuclei of the human neocortex. Conclusions: These data show preferential fetal CHRFAM7A expression in the human prefrontal cortex and suggest abnormalities in the CHRFAM7A/CHRNA7 ratios in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, due mainly to overexpression of CHRFAM7A. Given that these transcripts are coexpressed in a subset of human cortical neurons and can interact to alter function of nAChRs, these results support the concept of aberrant function of nAChRs in mental illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1122-1130
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Nov 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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