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Keywords:

  • alternative splicing;
  • bioinformatics;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • genome-wide association scan;
  • Kraepelinian dichotomy;
  • schizophrenia;
  • zinc-finger protein;
  • ZNF804A

Abstract

The gene that encodes zinc finger protein 804A (ZNF804A) became a candidate risk gene for schizophrenia (SZ) after surpassing genome-wide significance thresholds in replicated genome-wide association scans and meta-analyses. Much remains unknown about this reported gene expression regulator; however, preliminary work has yielded insights into functional and biological effects of ZNF804A by targeting its regulatory activities in vitro and by characterizing allele-specific interactions with its risk-conferring single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). There is now strong epidemiologic evidence for a role of ZNF804A polymorphisms in both SZ and bipolar disorder (BD); however, functional links between implicated variants and susceptible biological states have not been solidified. Here we briefly review the genetic evidence implicating ZNF804A polymorphisms as genetic risk factors for both SZ and BD, and discuss the potential functional consequences of these variants on the regulation of ZNF804A and its downstream targets. Empirical work and predictive bioinformatic analyses of the alternate alleles of the two most strongly implicated ZNF804A polymorphisms suggest they might alter the affinity of the gene sequence for DNA- and/or RNA-binding proteins, which might in turn alter expression levels of the gene or particular ZNF804A isoforms. Future work should focus on clarifying the critical periods and cofactors regulating these genetic influences on ZNF804A expression, as well as the downstream biological consequences of an imbalance in the expression of ZNF804A and its various mRNA isoforms. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.