GAD1 alternative transcripts and DNA methylation in human prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in brain development, schizophrenia

Mol Psychiatry. 2018 Jun;23(6):1496-1505. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.105. Epub 2017 May 9.


Genetic variations and adverse environmental events in utero or shortly after birth can lead to abnormal brain development and increased risk of schizophrenia. γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain, plays a vital role in normal brain development. GABA synthesis is controlled by enzymes derived from two glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) genes, GAD1 and GAD2, both of which produce transcript isoforms. While the full-length GAD1 transcript (GAD67) has been implicated in the neuropathology of schizophrenia, the transcript structure of GAD1 in the human brain has not been fully characterized. In this study, with the use of RNA sequencing and PCR technologies, we report the discovery of 10 novel transcripts of GAD1 in the human brain. Expression levels of four novel GAD1 transcripts (8A, 8B, I80 and I86) showed a lifespan trajectory expression pattern that is anticorrelated with the expression of the full-length GAD1 transcript. In addition, methylation levels of two CpG loci within the putative GAD1 promoter were significantly associated with the schizophrenia-risk SNP rs3749034 and with the expression of GAD25 in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Moreover, schizophrenia patients who had completed suicide and/or were positive for nicotine exposure had significantly higher full-length GAD1 expression in the DLPFC. Alternative splicing of GAD1 and epigenetic state appear to play roles in the developmental profile of GAD1 expression and may contribute to GABA dysfunction in the PFC and hippocampus of patients with schizophrenia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alternative Splicing / genetics
  • Autopsy
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / genetics
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / genetics*
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA Isoforms / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism


  • RNA Isoforms
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1