Schizophrenia (SZ) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are highly heritable neuropsychiatric disorders, although environmental factors, such as maternal immune activation (MIA), play a role as well. Cytokines mediate the effects of MIA on neurogenesis and behavior in animal models. However, MIA stimulators can also induce a febrile reaction, which could have independent effects on neurogenesis through heat shock (HS)-regulated cellular stress pathways. However, this has not been well-studied. To help understand the role of fever in MIA, we used a recently described model of human brain development in which induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) differentiate into 3-dimensional neuronal aggregates that resemble a first trimester telencephalon. RNA-seq was carried out on aggregates that were heat shocked at 39°C for 24 hours, along with their control partners maintained at 37°C. 186 genes showed significant differences in expression following HS (p,<.05), including known HS-inducible genes, as expected, as well as those coding for NGFR and a number of SZ and ASD candidates, including SMARCA2, DPP10, ARNT2, AHI1 and ZNF804A. The degree to which the expression of these genes decrease or increase during HS is similar to that found in copy loss and copy gain copy number variants (CNVs), although the effects of HS are likely to be transient. The dramatic effect on the expression of some SZ and ASD genes places HS, and perhaps other cellular stressors, into a common conceptual framework with disease-causing genetic variants. The findings also suggest that some candidate genes that are assumed to have a relatively limited impact on SZ and ASD pathogenesis based on a small number of positive genetic findings, such as SMARCA2 and ARNT2, may in fact have a much more substantial role in these disorders - as targets of common environmental stressors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences