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2022 European Neuropsychopharmacology
New insights of the role of the KCNH2 gene in schizophrenia: An fMRI case-control study.
Guardiola-Ripoll M, Almodóvar-Payá C, Lubeiro A, Salvador R, Salgado-Pineda P, Gomar JJ, Guerrero-Pedraza A, Sarró S, Maristany T, Fernández-Linsenbarth I, Hernández-García M, Papiol S, Molina V, Pomarol-Clotet E, Fatjó-Vilas M

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The KCNH2 gene, encoding for a subunit of a voltage-gated potassium channel, has been identified as a key element of neuronal excitability and a promising novel therapeutic target for schizophrenia (SZ). Nonetheless, evidence highlighting the role of KCNH2 on cognitive and brain activity phenotypes comes mainly from studies based on healthy controls (HC). Therefore, we aimed to study the role of KCNH2 on the brain functional differences between patients with SZ and HC. The fMRI sample comprised 78 HC and 79 patients with SZ (matched for age, sex and premorbid IQ). We studied the effect of the polymorphism KCNH2-rs3800779 on attention and working memory-related brain activity, evaluated through the N-back task, in regions with detected diagnostic differences (regression model, controlled for age, sex and premorbid IQ, FEAT-FSL). We report a significant diagnosis x KCNH2 interaction on brain activity (1-back vs baseline contrast) at the medial superior prefrontal cortex (Zmax=3.55, p = 0.00861). In this region, patients with SZ carrying the risk genotype (AA) show a deactivation failure, while HC depict the opposite pattern towards deactivation. The brain region with significant diagnosis x KCNH2 interaction has been previously associated with SZ. The results of this study, in which the role of KCNH2 on fMRI response is analysed for the first time in patients, suggest that KCNH2 variability contributes to inefficient brain activity modulation during the N-back task in affected subjects. These data may pave the way to further understand how KCNH2 genetic variability is related to the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying schizophrenia.
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