Investigation of betaine as a novel psychotherapeutic for schizophrenia

Tetsuo Ohnishi, Shabeesh Balan, Manabu Toyoshima, Motoko Maekawa, Hisako Ohba, Akiko Watanabe, Yoshimi Iwayama, Yuko Fujita, Yunfei Tan, Yasuko Hisano, Chie Shimamoto-Mitsuyama, Yayoi Nozaki, Kayoko Esaki, Atsuko Nagaoka, Junya Matsumoto, Mizuki Hino, Nobuko Mataga, Akiko Hayashi-Takagi, Kenji Hashimoto, Yasuto KuniiAkiyoshi Kakita, Hirooki Yabe, Takeo Yoshikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Betaine is known to act against various biological stresses and its levels were reported to be decreased in schizophrenia patients. We aimed to test the role of betaine in schizophrenia pathophysiology, and to evaluate its potential as a novel psychotherapeutic. Methods: Using Chdh (a gene for betaine synthesis)-deficient mice and betaine-supplemented inbred mice, we assessed the role of betaine in psychiatric pathophysiology, and its potential as a novel psychotherapeutic, by leveraging metabolomics, behavioral-, transcriptomics and DNA methylation analyses. Findings: The Chdh-deficient mice revealed remnants of psychiatric behaviors along with schizophrenia-related molecular perturbations in the brain. Betaine supplementation elicited genetic background-dependent improvement in cognitive performance, and suppressed methamphetamine (MAP)-induced behavioral sensitization. Furthermore, betaine rectified the altered antioxidative and proinflammatory responses induced by MAP and in vitro phencyclidine (PCP) treatments. Betaine also showed a prophylactic effect on behavioral abnormality induced by PCP. Notably, betaine levels were decreased in the postmortem brains from schizophrenia, and a coexisting elevated carbonyl stress, a form of oxidative stress, demarcated a subset of schizophrenia with “betaine deficit-oxidative stress pathology”. We revealed the decrease of betaine levels in glyoxylase 1 (GLO1)-deficient hiPSCs, which shows elevated carbonyl stress, and the efficacy of betaine in alleviating it, thus supporting a causal link between betaine and oxidative stress conditions. Furthermore, a CHDH variant, rs35518479, was identified as a cis-expression quantitative trait locus (QTL) for CHDH expression in postmortem brains from schizophrenia, allowing genotype-based stratification of schizophrenia patients for betaine efficacy. Interpretation: The present study revealed the role of betaine in psychiatric pathophysiology and underscores the potential benefit of betaine in a subset of schizophrenia. Fund: This study was supported by the Strategic Research Program for Brain Sciences from AMED (Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development) under Grant Numbers JP18dm0107083 and JP19dm0107083 (TY), JP18dm0107129 (MM), JP18dm0107086 (YK), JP18dm0107107 (HY), JP18dm0107104 (AK) and JP19dm0107119 (KH), by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas from the MEXT under Grant Numbers JP18H05435 (TY), JP18H05433 (AH.-T), JP18H05428 (AH.-T and TY), and JP16H06277 (HY), and by JSPS KAKENHI under Grant Number JP17H01574 (TY). In addition, this study was supported by the Collaborative Research Project of Brain Research Institute, Niigata University under Grant Numbers 2018–2809 (YK) and RIKEN Epigenetics Presidential Fund (100214–201801063606-340120) (TY).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-446
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul


  • Carbonyl stress
  • Chdh
  • DNA methylation
  • Postmortem brain
  • Schizophrenia
  • iPS cell


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