UCLA scientists have discovered that infants who possess a specific immune gene that too closely resembles their mothers' are more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life. Reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the study suggests that the genetic match may increase fetal susceptibility to schizophrenia, particularly in females.
HLA-B is one of a family of genes called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex, which helps the immune system distinguish the body's own proteins from those made by foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. The developing fetus inherits one copy of the HLA-B gene from each parent.
"Our findings clearly suggest that schizophrenia risk rises, especially in daughters, when the child's HLA-B gene too closely matches its mother's," explained Christina Palmer, Ph.D, UCLA associate professor of psychiatry and human genetics and a researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "We don't know whether sons who match are not affected -- or are more affected and less likely to come to term."
In 2002, Palmer and her colleagues discovered that infants are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia later in life when they possess a cell protein called Rhesus (Rh) factor that their mothers lack. Later studies found that male babies were more vulnerable to the consequences of Rh incompatibility than female infants.
The UCLA team hypothesized that females must possess a different fetal risk factor that predisposes them to schizophrenia. They decided to focus on HLA-B, which previous studies had linked to prenatal complications, like preeclampsia and low birth weight, that in turn have been associated with schizophrenia.
The researchers studied a group of 274 Finnish families in which at least one child had been diagnosed with schizophrenia or a related psychosis. In this group, 484 offspring had been diagnosed with the disease.
The scientists drew blood samples from everyone and performed DNA analysis, identifying cases in which children's HLA-B genes closely matched their mothers'.
Analysis of the entire sample revealed that daughters whose HLA-B genes matched their mothers' were 1.7 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than children who don't match their mothers'. If this risk could be removed, the researchers calculated that up to 12 percent of the cases of schizophrenia in daughters could be prevented.
"Our findings point out a paradox in pregnancy," said Palmer. "Why doesn't the mother's immune system reject her fetus when it inherits a copy of the HLA gene from the father that substantially differs from hers?
"It seems pretty clear that it's a good thing for the HLA genes of a mother and her fetus to not match," she added. "We suspect that HLA-matching increases a woman's susceptibility to pregnancy complications, which in turn predispose her child to schizophrenia. This is one more piece in the puzzle of identifying genetic markers for the disease."
The UCLA findings will enhance scientists' ability to detect genes that promote adverse prenatal conditions and deepen understanding of how these genes and the prenatal environment act separately and together to increase vulnerability to schizophrenia.
"In the future, we also may be able to produce tailored risk assessments for individuals with personal or family histories of schizophrenia," said Palmer.
Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert!
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel
The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering