The Nogo receptor (NgR) is implicated in neurodevelopmental processes and it participates in inhibiting axonal growth. Consistent with its high levels of expression in the prefrontal cortex, animal studies indicate that NgR is relevant for prefrontal-related cognitive processing. Given that genetic variation may alter mechanisms of gene expression impacting molecular and systems-level phenotypes, we investigated the association of genetic variation with the expression of the NgR coding gene (RTN4R), as well as with prefrontal correlates at progressively greater biological distance from gene effects. First, we studied the association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with RTN4R mRNA expression in postmortem prefrontal cortex of humans without psychiatric illnesses. Then, we probed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) the association that we found in prefrontal tissue. Thus, we investigated whether functional genetic variation affecting RTN4R expression is also associated with prefrontal activity during working memory. We found that rs696884 (A/G) predicted these phenotypes. Specifically, the AA genotype was associated with lower RTN4R mRNA expression levels in the prefrontal cortex and PBMCs and inefficient prefrontal activity during working memory compared to the GG genotype. These results suggest that genetic variation associated with RTN4R mRNA expression influences prefrontal physiology in healthy individuals. Furthermore, they highlight the need for further investigations of the role of NgR in the pathophysiology of brain disorders associated with prefrontal dysfunction.
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