The significant impact of microRNAs (miRNAs) on disease pathology is becoming increasingly evident. These small non-coding RNAs have the ability to post-transcriptionally silence the expression of thousands of genes. Therefore, dysregulation of even a single miRNA could confer a large polygenic effect. Schizophrenia is a genetically complex illness thought to involve multiple genes each contributing a small risk. Large genome-wide association studies identified miR-137, a miRNA shown to be involved in neuronal maturation, as one of the top risk genes. To assess the potential mechanism of impact of miR-137 in this disorder and identify its targets, we used a combination of literature searches, ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA), and freely accessible bioinformatics resources. Using TargetScan and the schizophrenia gene resource (SZGR) database, we found that in addition to CSMD1, C10orf26, CACNA1C, TCF4, and ZNF804A, five schizophrenia risk genes whose transcripts are also validated miR-137 targets, there are other schizophrenia-associated genes that may be targets of miR-137, including ERBB4, GABRA1, GRIN2A, GRM5, GSK3B, NRG2, and HTR2C. IPA analyses of all the potential targets identified several nervous system (NS) functions as the top canonical pathways including synaptic long-term potentiation, a process implicated in learning and memory mechanisms and recently shown to be altered in patients with schizophrenia. Among the subset of targets involved in NS development and function, the top scoring pathways were ephrin receptor signaling and axonal guidance, processes that are critical for proper circuitry formation and were shown to be disrupted in schizophrenia. These results suggest that miR-137 may indeed play a substantial role in the genetic etiology of schizophrenia by regulating networks involved in neural development and brain function.
Keywords: miR-137; miRNA; schizophrenia.