Pleiotropic effects of schizophrenia-associated genetic variants in neuron firing and cardiac pacemaking revealed by computational modeling

Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 17;7(11):5. doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0007-4.


Schizophrenia patients have an increased risk of cardiac dysfunction. A possible factor underlying this comorbidity are the common variants in the large set of genes that have recently been discovered in genome-wide association studies (GWASs) as risk genes of schizophrenia. Many of these genes control the cell electrogenesis and calcium homeostasis. We applied biophysically detailed models of layer V pyramidal cells and sinoatrial node cells to study the contribution of schizophrenia-associated genes on cellular excitability. By including data from functional genomics literature to simulate the effects of common variants of these genes, we showed that variants of voltage-gated Na+ channel or hyperpolarization-activated cation channel-encoding genes cause qualitatively similar effects on layer V pyramidal cell and sinoatrial node cell excitability. By contrast, variants of Ca2+ channel or transporter-encoding genes mostly have opposite effects on cellular excitability in the two cell types. We also show that the variants may crucially affect the propagation of the cardiac action potential in the sinus node. These results may help explain some of the cardiac comorbidity in schizophrenia, and may facilitate generation of effective antipsychotic medications without cardiac side-effects such as arrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • Calcium