The zinc finger protein ZNF804A rs1344706 variant is a replicated genome-wide significant risk variant for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While its association with altered brain structure and cognition in patients and healthy risk allele carriers is well documented, the characteristics and function of the gene in the brain remains poorly understood. Here, we used in situ hybridization to determine mRNA expression levels of the ZNF804A rodent homologue, Zfp804a, across multiple postnatal neurodevelopmental time points in the rat brain. We found changes in Zfp804a expression in the rat hippocampus, frontal cortex, and thalamus across postnatal neurodevelopment. Zfp804a mRNA peaked at postnatal day (P) 21 in hippocampal CA1 and DG regions and was highest in the lower cortical layers of frontal cortex at P1, possibly highlighting a role in developmental migration. Using immunofluorescence, we found that Zfp804a mRNA and ZFP804A co-localized with neurons and not astrocytes. In primary cultured cortical neurons, we found that Zfp804a expression was significantly increased when neurons were exposed to glutamate [20muM], but this increase was blocked by the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist MK-801. Expression of Comt, Pde4b, and Drd2, genes previously shown to be regulated by ZNF804A overexpression, was also significantly changed in an NMDA-dependent manner. Our results describe, for the first time, the unique postnatal neurodevelopmental expression of Zfp804a in the rodent brain and demonstrate that glutamate potentially plays an important role in the regulation of this psychiatric susceptibility gene. These are critical steps toward understanding the biological function of ZNF804A in the mammalian brain.
Faculty, Northwell Researcher, Northwell Resident
School of Medicine; Northwell Health