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Gene expression alterations related to mania and psychosis in peripheral blood of patients with a first episode of psychosis


Psychotic disorders affect approximately 3% of the general population and are among the most severe forms of mental diseases. In early stages of psychosis, clinical aspects may be difficult to distinguish from one another. Undifferentiated psychopathology at the first-episode of psychosis (FEP) highlights the need for biomarkers that can improve and refine differential diagnosis. We investigated gene expression differences between patients with FEP-Schizophrenia spectrum (SCZ; N = 53) or FEP-Mania (BD; N = 16), and healthy controls (N = 73). We also verified whether gene expression was correlated to severity of psychotic, manic, depressive symptoms, and/or functional impairment. All participants were antipsychotic-naïve. After the psychiatric interview, blood samples were collected and the expression of 12 psychotic-disorder-related genes was evaluated by quantitative PCR. AKT1 and DICER1 expression levels were higher in BD patients compared to that in SCZ patients and healthy controls, suggesting that expression of these genes is associated more specifically to manic features. Furthermore, MBP and NDEL1 expression levels were higher in SCZ and BD patients than in healthy controls, indicating that these genes are psychosis-related (independent of diagnosis). No correlation was found between clinical features and gene expression. Our findings suggest that genes related to neurodevelopment are altered in psychotic disorders, and some might support the differential diagnosis between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, with a potential impact on the treatment of these disorders. (AU)

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