Dysregulated Glial Differentiation in Schizophrenia May Be Relieved by Suppression of SMAD4- and REST-Dependent Signaling

Cell Rep. 2019 Jun 25;27(13):3832-3843.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.05.088.


Astrocytic differentiation is developmentally impaired in patients with childhood-onset schizophrenia (SCZ). To determine why, we used genetic gain- and loss-of-function studies to establish the contributions of differentially expressed transcriptional regulators to the defective differentiation of glial progenitor cells (GPCs) produced from SCZ patient-derived induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs). Negative regulators of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathway were upregulated in SCZ GPCs, including BAMBI, FST, and GREM1, whose overexpression retained SCZ GPCs at the progenitor stage. SMAD4 knockdown (KD) suppressed the production of these BMP inhibitors by SCZ GPCs and rescued normal astrocytic differentiation. In addition, the BMP-regulated transcriptional repressor REST was upregulated in SCZ GPCs, and its KD similarly restored normal glial differentiation. REST KD also rescued potassium-transport-associated gene expression and K+ uptake, which were otherwise deficient in SCZ glia. These data suggest that the glial differentiation defect in childhood-onset SCZ, and its attendant disruption in K+ homeostasis, may be rescued by targeting BMP/SMAD4- and REST-dependent transcription.

Keywords: BAMBI; BMP inhibitors; REST; astrocytes; epigenetics; glial progenitor cells; iPSC; potassium channel; schizophrenia; stem cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Smad4 Protein / genetics
  • Smad4 Protein / metabolism*


  • RE1-silencing transcription factor
  • Repressor Proteins
  • SMAD4 protein, human
  • Smad4 Protein