Functional Effects of Schizophrenia-Linked Genetic Variants on Intrinsic Single-Neuron Excitability: A Modeling Study

Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2016 Jan 1;1(1):49-59. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2015.09.002.


Background: Recent genome-wide association studies have identified a large number of genetic risk factors for schizophrenia (SCZ) featuring ion channels and calcium transporters. For some of these risk factors, independent prior investigations have examined the effects of genetic alterations on the cellular electrical excitability and calcium homeostasis. In the present proof-of-concept study, we harnessed these experimental results for modeling of computational properties on layer V cortical pyramidal cells and identified possible common alterations in behavior across SCZ-related genes.

Methods: We applied a biophysically detailed multicompartmental model to study the excitability of a layer V pyramidal cell. We reviewed the literature on functional genomics for variants of genes associated with SCZ and used changes in neuron model parameters to represent the effects of these variants.

Results: We present and apply a framework for examining the effects of subtle single nucleotide polymorphisms in ion channel and calcium transporter-encoding genes on neuron excitability. Our analysis indicates that most of the considered SCZ-related genetic variants affect the spiking behavior and intracellular calcium dynamics resulting from summation of inputs across the dendritic tree.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that alteration in the ability of a single neuron to integrate the inputs and scale its excitability may constitute a fundamental mechanistic contributor to mental disease, alongside the previously proposed deficits in synaptic communication and network behavior.

Keywords: Biophysical modeling; Functional genomics; Genome-wide association studies; Layer V pyramidal cell; Neuron excitability; Schizophrenia.