, Volume 26, Issue 2-3, pp 389-403

Post-genomic era and gene discovery for psychiatric diseases: There is a new art of the trade?

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The microsatellite HUMTH01, located in the first intron of the Tyrosine Hydroxylase (TH) gene (encoding the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of catecholamines), is characterized by a TCAT repeated motif and has been used in genetic studies of neuropsychiatric and other complex diseases, in which catecholaminergic neurotransmission is implicated. After reporting a positive association between HUMTH01 and bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia, the authors established that HUMTH01 alleles display the features of regulatory elements. Thereafter, they cloned two proteins (ZNF191 and HBP1), specifically binding to HUMTH01, and demonstrated that allelic variations of HUMTH01 have a quantitative silencing effect on TH gene expression in vitro, and correlate with quantitative and qualitative changes in the binding by ZNF191. The authors aim to characterize the transduction pathway impinging on the HUMTH01 microsatellite and establish its relevance for TH gene regulation in vivo. Since the TCAT repeated sequence is widespread throughout the genome, their approach may lead to the dissection of the mechanisms underlying the quantitative expression of several genes implicated in complex genetic traits, both normal and pathological. Thus, these investigations on the possible contribution and potential role of the HUMTH01 microsatellite in neuro-pathological conditions may represent an example of the different approaches needed to validate genetic targets in the “post-genomic era.”