Suicide and suicide behaviors: A review of transcriptomics and multiomics studies in psychiatric disorders

J Neurosci Res. 2020 Apr;98(4):601-615. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24367. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Aberrant gene expression can contribute to brain and nervous system dysfunction that causes many psychiatric illnesses. Here, we review how transcriptomic approaches have deepened our understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of psychiatric disorders and how they have to the identification of biomarkers for these disorders, with a focus on their relevance to suicide and suicide behaviors. We begin by providing an overview of the genetic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic factors (including non-coding RNAs) implicated in suicide and their roles in the regulation of gene expression. Then, we highlight the unique benefits and limitations of using either postmortem brain or peripheral tissues in transcriptomic analyses. We examine the current shift from candidate gene to genome-wide approaches in psychiatric research, which are concurrently emerging with the increased consideration of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework for classifying mental illnesses. Furthermore, we discuss the use of transcription networks and how they can be integrated into multiomic analyses. Finally, we end by highlighting recent findings of peripheral markers of suicide risk identified through the use of transcriptomic tools. Technological advancements and increased accessibility of these technologies are drastically shaping the current research landscape. We present an overview of the significant changes currently taking place to usher in a new era of psychiatric research.

Keywords: biomarker; epigenetic; suicide; transcription regulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • Suicide*
  • Transcriptome*


  • RNA, Untranslated