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Title: Integration of postmortem amygdala expression profiling, GWAS, and functional cell culture assays: neuroticism-associated synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) gene is regulated by miR-133a and miR-218

Recent genome-wide studies have begun to identify gene variants, expression profiles, and regulators associated with neuroticism, anxiety disorders, and depression. We conducted a set of experimental cell culture studies of gene regulation by micro RNAs (miRNAs), based on genome-wide transcriptome, proteome, and miRNA expression data from twentypostmortemsamples of lateral amygdala from donors with known neuroticism scores. Using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and TargetScan, we identified a list of mRNA–protein–miRNA sets whose expression patterns were consistent with miRNA-based translational repression, as a function of trait anxiety. Here, we focused on one gene from that list, which is of particular translational significance in Psychiatry: synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) is the binding site of the anticonvulsant drug levetiracetam ((S)-α-Ethyl-2-oxo-1-pyrrolidineacetamide), which has shown promise in anxiety disorder treatments. We confirmed thatSV2Ais associated with neuroticism or anxiety using an original GWAS of a community cohort (N = 1,706), and cross-referencing a published GWAS of multiple cohorts (Ns ranging from 340,569 to 390,278).Postmortemamygdala expression profiling implicated three putative regulatory miRNAs to targetSV2A: miR-133a, miR-138, and miR-218. Moving from association to experimental causal testing in cell culture, we used a luciferase assay to demonstrate that miR-133a and miR-218, but not miR-138, significantly decreased relative luciferase activity from theSV2Adual-luciferase more » construct. In human neuroblastoma cells, transfection with miR-133a and miR-218 reduced both endogenousSV2AmRNA and protein levels, confirming miRNA targeting of theSV2Agene. This study illustrates the utility of combiningpostmortemgene expression data with GWAS to guide experimental cell culture assays examining gene regulatory mechanisms that may contribute to complex human traits. Identifying specific molecular mechanisms of gene regulation may be useful for future clinical applications in anxiety disorders or other forms of psychopathology.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Translational Psychiatry
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Reconstructing regulatory networks from expression and interaction data is a major goal of systems biology. While much work has focused on trying to experimentally and computationally determine the set of transcription-factors (TFs) and microRNAs (miRNAs) that regulate genes in these networks, relatively little work has focused on inferring the regulation of miRNAs by TFs. Such regulation can play an important role in several biological processes including development and disease. The main challenge for predicting such interactions is the very small positive training set currently available. Another challenge is the fact that a large fraction of miRNAs are encoded within genes making it hard to determine the specific way in which they are regulated.


    To enable genome wide predictions of TF–miRNA interactions, we extended semi-supervised machine-learning approaches to integrate a large set of different types of data including sequence, expression, ChIP-seq and epigenetic data. As we show, the methods we develop achieve good performance on both a labeled test set, and when analyzing general co-expression networks. We next analyze mRNA and miRNA cancer expression data, demonstrating the advantage of using the predicted set of interactions for identifying more coherent and relevant modules, genes, and miRNAs. The complete set of predictionsmore »is available on the supporting website and can be used by any method that combines miRNAs, genes, and TFs.

    Availability and Implementation

    Code and full set of predictions are available from the supporting website:


    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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