Genetic mechanisms for impaired synaptic plasticity in schizophrenia revealed by computational modelling

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Jun 14:2023.06.14.544920. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.14.544920.


Schizophrenia phenotypes are suggestive of impaired cortical plasticity in the disease, but the mechanisms of these deficits are unknown. Genomic association studies have implicated a large number of genes that regulate neuromodulation and plasticity, indicating that the plasticity deficits have a genetic origin. Here, we used biochemically detailed computational modelling of post-synaptic plasticity to investigate how schizophrenia-associated genes regulate long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD). We combined our model with data from post-mortem mRNA expression studies (CommonMind gene-expression datasets) to assess the consequences of altered expression of plasticity-regulating genes for the amplitude of LTP and LTD. Our results show that the expression alterations observed post mortem, especially those in anterior cingulate cortex, lead to impaired PKA-pathway-mediated LTP in synapses containing GluR1 receptors. We validated these findings using a genotyped EEG dataset where polygenic risk scores for synaptic and ion channel-encoding genes as well as modulation of visual evoked potentials (VEP) were determined for 286 healthy controls. Our results provide a possible genetic mechanism for plasticity impairments in schizophrenia, which can lead to improved understanding and, ultimately, treatment of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Preprint