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!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences