Selective epigenetic alteration of layer I GABAergic neurons isolated from prefrontal cortex of schizophrenia patients using laser-assisted microdissection

Mol Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;12(4):385-97. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2007 Jan 30.


Among the most consistent results of studies of post-mortem brain tissue from schizophrenia patients (SZP) is the finding that in this disease, several genes expressed by GABAergic neurons are downregulated. This downregulation may be caused by hypermethylation of the relevant promoters in affected neurons. Indeed, increased numbers of GABAergic interneurons expressing DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) mRNA have been demonstrated in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of SZP using in situ hybridization. The present study expands upon these findings using nested competitive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction combined with laser-assisted microdissection to quantitate the extent of DNMT1 mRNA overexpression in distinct populations of GABAergic neurons obtained from either layer I or layer V of the PFC of SZP. In a cohort of eight SZP and eight non-psychiatric subject (NPS) post-mortem BA9 tissue samples, DNMT1 mRNA was found to be selectively expressed in GABAergic interneurons and virtually absent in pyramidal neurons. DNMT1 mRNA expression was approximately threefold higher in GABAergic interneurons microdissected from layer I of SZP relative to the same neurons microdissected from NPS. GABAergic interneurons obtained from layer V of the same samples displayed no difference in DNMT1 mRNA expression between groups. In the same samples, the GABAergic neuron-specific glutamic acid-decarboxylase(67) (GAD(67)) and reelin mRNAs were underexpressed twofold in GABAergic interneurons isolated from layer I of SZP relative to GABAergic interneurons microdissected from layer I of NPS, and unaltered in GABAergic interneurons of layer V. These findings implicate an epigenetically mediated layer I GABAergic dysfunction in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, and suggest novel strategies for treatment of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microdissection / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Reelin Protein
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Schizophrenia* / etiology
  • Schizophrenia* / genetics
  • Schizophrenia* / pathology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Isoenzymes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Reelin Protein
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNMT1 protein, human
  • RELN protein, human
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1