Schizophrenia is a common mental illness with a large genetic component. Three genome-wide association studies have implicated the major histocompatibility complex gene region on chromosome 6p21.3-22.1 in schizophrenia. In addition, nicotine, which is commonly abused in schizophrenia, affects the expression of central nervous system immune genes. Messenger RNA levels for genes in the 6p21.3-22.1 region were measured in human postmortem hippocampus of 89 subjects. The effects of schizophrenia diagnosis, smoking and systemic inflammatory illness were compared. Cell-specific expression patterns for the class I major histocompatibility complex gene HLA-A were explored utilizing in situ hybridization. Expression of five genes was altered in schizophrenic subjects. Messenger RNA levels for the class I major histocompatibility complex antigen HLA-B were increased in schizophrenic nonsmokers, while levels for smokers were indistinguishable from those of controls. β2 microglobulin, HLA-A and Notch4 were all expressed in a pattern where inflammatory illness was associated with increased expression in controls but not in subjects with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia was also associated with increased expression of Butyrophilin 2A2. HLA-A was expressed in glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons in the dentate gyrus, hilus, and the stratum pyramidale of the CA1-CA4 regions of the hippocampus, but not in astrocytes. In conclusion, the expression of genes from the major histocompatibility complex region of chromosome 6 with likely roles in synaptic development is altered in schizophrenia. There were also significant interactions between schizophrenia diagnosis and both inflammatory illness and smoking.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.