Preliminary investigation of miRNA expression in individuals at high familial risk of bipolar disorder

Rosie May Walker, Joanna Rybka, Susan Maguire Anderson, Helen Scott Torrance, Ruth Boxall, Jessika Elizabeth Sussmann, David John Porteous, Andrew Mark McIntosh, Kathryn Louise Evans

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Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly heritable psychiatric disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of mania and depression. Many studies have reported altered gene expression in BD, some of which may be attributable to the dysregulated expression of miRNAs. Studies carried out to date have largely studied medicated patients, so it is possible that observed changes in miRNA expression might be a consequence of clinical illness or of its treatment. We sought to establish whether altered miRNA expression might play a causative role in the development of BD by studying young, unmedicated relatives of individuals with BD, who are at a higher genetic risk of developing BD themselves (high-risk individuals). The expression of 20 miRNAs previously implicated in either BD or schizophrenia was measured by qRT-PCR in whole-blood samples from 34 high-risk and 46 control individuals. Three miRNAs, miR-15b, miR-132 and miR-652 were up-regulated in the high-risk individuals, consistent with previous reports of increased expression of these miRNAs in patients with schizophrenia. Our findings suggest that the altered expression of these miRNAs might represent a mechanism of genetic susceptibility for BD. Moreover, our observation of altered miRNA expression in the blood prior to the onset of illness provides hope that one day blood-based tests may aid in the risk-stratification and treatment of BD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Early online date22 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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