Association of decreased prefrontal hemodynamic response during a verbal fluency task with EGR3 gene polymorphism in patients with schizophrenia and in healthy individuals.

PMID 23962955


The early growth response 3 (EGR3) gene is an immediate early gene that is expressed throughout the brain and has been suggested as a potential susceptibility gene for schizophrenia (SZ). EGR3 impairment is associated with various neurodevelopmental dysfunctions, and some animal studies have reported a role for EGR3 function in the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, EGR3 genotype variation may be reflected in prefrontal function. By using multi-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in an imaging genetics approach, we tested for an association between the EGR3 gene polymorphism and prefrontal hemodynamic response during a cognitive task in patients with SZ. We assessed 73 chronic patients with SZ and 73 age-, gender-, and genotype-matched healthy controls (HC) who provided written informed consent. We used NIRS to measure changes in prefrontal oxygenated hemoglobin concentration (oxyHb) during the letter version of a verbal fluency task (VFT). Statistical comparisons were performed among EGR3 genotype subgroups (rs35201266, GG/GA/AA). The AA genotype group showed significantly smaller oxyHb increases in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during the VFT than the GG and GA genotype groups; this was true for both patients with SZ and HC. Our findings provide in vivo human evidence of a significant influence of EGR3 polymorphisms on prefrontal hemodynamic activation level in healthy adults and in patients with SZ. Genetic variation in EGR3 may affect prefrontal function through neurodevelopment. This study illustrates the usefulness of NIRS in imaging genetics investigations on psychiatric disorders.