There aren’t a lot of laughs to be had when discussing the very real and increasing problem of depression, but some new research supported by the brain initiative on sets of twins may help to lighten the mood a bit.
Studies have begun popping up showing that epigenetic marks can be used to show if someone has been bullied or given antipsychotics, while also shedding light on the molecular mechanisms behind cellular memory at a level GWAS can’t dream of. It’s also been previously shown that epigenetic marks can serve as a sort of molecular memory; so what better organ to rely on such a process than the brain? An abstract thinking team from King’s College London (UK) have shown just what an EWAS based twin study can reveal about the brain by using peripheral blood, rather than brain tissue samples.
Here’s what they found:
- Genome-wide MeDIP-sequencing was done on 50 monozygotic twin pairs discordant for depression from both the UK and Australia.
- The initial scan of peripheral blood revealed significant hypermethylation in the coding region of ZBTB20, a gene essential for the development of the hippocampus, a brain region previously linked to major depressive disorder.
- The results were then replicated in an independent cohort of 356 unrelated case-control individuals.
While not the first EWAS study, it certainly is an interesting one as it highlights that we can learn about the status of epigenetic marks in the brain by looking at more easily accessible peripheral tissues, while also showing the power of using an epigenetic twin model to study neuropsychiatric disease.
See what else you can learn about the brain, without actually using brain tissue in Genome Biology, April 2014