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Study Links MicroRNAs to Range of Psychiatric Disorders

A new study appearing in Human Mutation this week implicates microRNAs in a range of psychiatric disorders, shedding new light on the mechanisms underlying such conditions. MiRNAs have been increasingly studied for their possible role in psychiatric disease in light of the importance of these small, noncoding RNAs in gene expression and translation. Seeking to expand upon this work, scientists from the University of Newcastle set out to determine whether common genetic variation within miRNA binding sites contributes to the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. They intersected genome-wide association study summary statistics with dbMTS, a database of putative human miRNA target site single-nucleotide variants and their functional predictions, to uncover miRNA binding site variants (MBSVs) and putative gene pathways affected by these variants in nine psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, autism, and anorexia nervosa. The researchers also find a significant enrichment of MBSVs in several of the disorders, as well as evidence for aggregation of MBSVs within pathways relevant to synaptic function. The study results, they write, suggest that MBSVs may be contributors to psychiatric disorders and may prove to be valuable targets for future research into disease origins and novel treatments.