Discovery of mechanisms that underlie variable penetrance for neuropsychiatric illness in the context of genetic variants that carry elevated risk can advance novel treatment approaches for these disorders.
Objective To test the hypothesis that mitochondrial compensation is associated with the variable penetrance of schizophrenia in the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS).
Design, Setting, and Participants This case-control study compared measures of mitochondrial function and the expression of related genes in 14 induced pluripotent stem cell–derived neurons from typically developing control individuals (6 lines) and from adults with 22q11DS (8 lines). The individuals with 22q11DS included 2 groups, those carrying a diagnosis of schizophrenia and those without this diagnosis (4 lines each). Similar measures were made of lymphoblastic cells lines (LCLs) from a separate group of adults with 22q11DS with (10 lines) or without (8 lines) schizophrenia. The study included samples derived from a clinical setting. The induced pluripotent stem cell lines were derived from individuals with 22q11DS with or without a diagnosis of schizophrenia at Stanford University. The LCLs were from adults within the 22q and You Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Data were analyzed between July 1, 2019, and January 24, 2021.
Main Outcomes and Measures Total adenosine triphosphate (ATP), oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complex activity, and messenger RNA expression via reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction of selected genes encoding for mitochondrial proteins.
Results Study participants included men and women aged 18 to 37 years. Of 32 participants, the mean (SD) age of men was 27 (1.9) years and of women was 29 (1.2) years. Replicating a previous study, neurons from the 22q11DS and schizophrenia (22q+Sz) group had reduced ATP levels (mean [SD], 15.6 [1.5] vs 21.9 [1.4]; P = .02) and reduced OXPHOS activity (ie, complex I; 1.51 [0.1] vs 1.89 [0.1]; P = .01). These deficits were not present in neurons from individuals with 22q11DS without schizophrenia (22q[−]Sz). In this group, the expression of multiple genes encoding OXPHOS subunits was significantly upregulated. For example, compared with control individuals, NDUFV2 expression was increased by 50% in the 22q(−)Sz group (P < .001) but not significantly changed in the 22q+Sz group. Expression of genes driving mitochondrial biogenesis, including PGC1α, showed a similar pattern of upregulation in the 22q(−)Sz group compared with the control and the 22q+Sz groups. Stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis normalizes the ATP deficit seen in 22q+Sz neurons. Finally, using LCLs from a separate group of adults with 22q11DS, evidence for enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis was again found in the 22q(−)Sz group.
Conclusions and Relevance In this study, an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis and function was associated with the absence of schizophrenia in neurons and LCLs from individuals with 22q11DS, but the deficit in the 22q+Sz group was reversible by agents that enhance mitochondrial biogenesis. Enhancement of mitochondrial biogenesis may provide a targetable opportunity for treatment or prevention of this disorder in individuals with 22q11DS