Early detection and intervention in schizophrenia requires mechanism-based biomarkers that capture neural circuitry dysfunction, allowing better patient stratification, monitoring of disease progression and treatment. In prefrontal cortex and blood of redox dysregulated mice (Gclm-KO ± GBR), oxidative stress induces miR-137 upregulation, leading to decreased COX6A2 and mitophagy markers (NIX, Fundc1, and LC3B) and to accumulation of damaged mitochondria, further exacerbating oxidative stress and parvalbumin interneurons (PVI) impairment. MitoQ, a mitochondria-targeted antioxidant, rescued all these processes. Translating to early psychosis patients (EPP), blood exosomal miR-137 increases and COX6A2 decreases, combined with mitophagy markers alterations, suggest that observations made centrally and peripherally in animal model were reflected in patients' blood. Higher exosomal miR-137 and lower COX6A2 levels were associated with a reduction of ASSR gamma oscillations in EEG. As ASSR requires proper PVI-related networks, alterations in miR-137/COX6A2 plasma exosome levels may represent a proxy marker of PVI cortical microcircuit impairment. EPP can be stratified in two subgroups: (a) a patients' group with mitochondrial dysfunction "Psy-D", having high miR-137 and low COX6A2 levels in exosomes, and (b) a "Psy-ND" subgroup with no/low mitochondrial impairment, including patients having miR-137 and COX6A2 levels in the range of controls. Psy-D patients exhibited more impaired ASSR responses in association with worse psychopathological status, neurocognitive performance, and global and social functioning, suggesting that impairment of PVI mitochondria leads to more severe disease profiles. This stratification would allow, with high selectivity and specificity, the selection of patients for treatments targeting brain mitochondria dysregulation and capture the clinical and functional efficacy of future clinical trials.
© 2021. The Author(s).