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Schizophrenia is a severe, complex mental disorder characterized by a combination of positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and impaired cognitive function. Schizophrenia is highly heritable (~80%) with multifactorial etiology and complex polygenic genetic architecture. Despite the large number of genetic variants associated with schizophrenia, few causal variants have been established. Gaining insight into the mechanistic influences of these genetic variants may facilitate our ability to apply these findings to prevention and treatment. Though there have been more than 300 studies of gene expression in schizophrenia over the past 15 years, none of the studies have yielded consistent evidence for specific genes that contribute to schizophrenia risk. The aim of this work is to conduct a systematic review and synthesis of case-control studies of genome-wide gene expression in schizophrenia. Comprehensive literature searches were completed in PubMed, EmBase, and Web of Science, and after a systematic review of the studies, data were extracted from those that met the following inclusion criteria: human case-control studies comparing the genome-wide transcriptome of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia to healthy controls published between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2020 in the English language. Genes differentially expressed in cases were extracted from these studies, and overlapping genes were compared to previous research findings from the genome-wide association, structural variation, and tissue-expression studies. The transcriptome-wide analysis identified different genes than those previously reported in genome-wide association, exome sequencing, and structural variation studies of schizophrenia. Only one gene, GBP2, was replicated in five studies. Previous work has shown that this gene may play a role in immune function in the etiology of schizophrenia, which in turn could have implications for risk profiling, prevention, and treatment. This review highlights the methodological inconsistencies that impede valid meta-analyses and synthesis across studies. Standardization of the use of covariates, gene nomenclature, and methods for reporting results could enhance our understanding of the potential mechanisms through which genes exert their influence on the etiology of schizophrenia. Although these results are promising, collaborative efforts with harmonization of methodology will facilitate the identification of the role of genes underlying schizophrenia. © 2021. The Author(s).


Alison K Merikangas, Matthew Shelly, Alexys Knighton, Nicholas Kotler, Nicole Tanenbaum, Laura Almasy. What genes are differentially expressed in individuals with schizophrenia? A systematic review. Molecular psychiatry. 2022 Mar;27(3):1373-1383

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PMID: 35091668

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