Mirna Kvajo

Columbia University, New York City, NY, United States

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Publications (8)56.29 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Disrupted in schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) gene is associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders as it is disrupted by a balanced translocation involving chromosomes 1 and 11 in a large Scottish pedigree with high prevalence of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Since its identification, several mouse models with DISC1 genetic modifications have been generated using different approaches. Interestingly, a natural deletion of 25bp in the 129 mouse strain alters the DISC1 gene reading frame leading to a premature stop codon very close to the gene breakpoint in the mutant allele of the Scottish family. In the present study we confirmed that the 129DISC1(Del) mutation results in reduced level of full length DISC1 in hippocampus of heterozygous mice and we have characterized the behavioral consequences of heterozygous 129DISC1(Del) mutation in a mixed B6129 genetic background. We found alterations in spontaneous locomotor activity (hyperactivity in males and hypoactivity in females), deficits in pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) and also increased despair behavior in heterozygous 129DISC1(Del) mice, thus reproducing typical behaviors associated to psychiatric disorders. Since this mouse strain is widely and commercially available, we propose it as an amenable tool to study DISC1-related biochemical alterations and psychiatric behaviors.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:253. · 4.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A balanced chromosomal translocation segregating with schizophrenia and affective disorders in a large Scottish family disrupting DISC1 implicated this gene as a susceptibility gene for major mental illness. Here we study neurons derived from a genetically engineered mouse strain with a truncating lesion disrupting the endogenous Disc1 ortholog. We provide a detailed account of the consequences of this mutation on axonal and dendritic morphogenesis as well as dendritic spine development in cultured hippocampal and cortical neurons. We show that the mutation has distinct effects on these two types of neurons, supporting a cell-type specific role of Disc1 in establishing structural connections among neurons. Moreover, using a validated antibody we provide evidence indicating that Disc1 localizes primarily to Golgi apparatus-related vesicles. Our results support the notion that in vitro cultures derived from Disc1(Tm1Kara) mice provide a valuable model for future mechanistic analysis of the cellular and biochemical effects of this mutation, and can thus serve as a platform for drug discovery efforts.
    Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 02/2013; · 3.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Carefully designed animal models of genetic risk factors are likely to aid our understanding of the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Here, we study a mouse strain with a truncating lesion in the endogenous Disc1 ortholog designed to model the effects of a schizophrenia-predisposing mutation and offer a detailed account of the consequences that this mutation has on the development and function of a hippocampal circuit. We uncover widespread and cumulative cytoarchitectural alterations in the dentate gyrus during neonatal and adult neurogenesis, which include errors in axonal targeting and are accompanied by changes in short-term plasticity at the mossy fiber/CA3 circuit. We also provide evidence that cAMP levels are elevated as a result of the Disc1 mutation, leading to altered axonal targeting and dendritic growth. The identified structural alterations are, for the most part, not consistent with the growth-promoting and premature maturation effects inferred from previous RNAi-based Disc1 knockdown. Our results provide support to the notion that modest disturbances of neuronal connectivity and accompanying deficits in short-term synaptic dynamics is a general feature of schizophrenia-predisposing mutations.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2011; 108(49):E1349-58. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    M Kvajo, H McKellar, J A Gogos
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    ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, but despite progress in identifying the genetic factors implicated in its development, the mechanisms underlying its etiology and pathogenesis remain poorly understood. Development of mouse models is critical for expanding our understanding of the causes of schizophrenia. However, translation of disease pathology into mouse models has proven to be challenging, primarily due to the complex genetic architecture of schizophrenia and the difficulties in the re-creation of susceptibility alleles in the mouse genome. In this review we highlight current research on models of major susceptibility loci and the information accrued from their analysis. We describe and compare the different approaches that are necessitated by diverse susceptibility alleles, and discuss their advantages and drawbacks. Finally, we discuss emerging mouse models, such as second-generation pathophysiology models based on innovative approaches that are facilitated by the information gathered from the current genetic mouse models.
    Neuroscience 07/2011; 211:136-64. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, but despite some progress in identifying the genetic factors implicated in its development, the molecular mechanisms underlying its etiology and pathogenesis remain poorly understood. However, accumulating evidence suggests that regardless of the underlying genetic complexity, the mechanisms of the disease may impact a small number of common signaling pathways. In this review, we discuss the evidence for a role of schizophrenia susceptibility genes in intracellular signaling cascades by focusing on three prominent candidate genes: AKT, PPP3CC (calcineurin), and DISC1. We describe the regulation of a number of signaling cascades by AKT and calcineurin through protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, and the recently uncovered functions of DISC1 in cAMP and GSK3beta signaling. In addition, we present independent evidence for the involvement of their downstream signaling pathways in schizophrenia. Finally, we discuss evidence supporting an impact of these susceptibility genes on common intracellular signaling pathways and the convergence of their effects on neuronal processes implicated in schizophrenia.
    Current topics in behavioral neurosciences. 01/2010; 4:629-56.
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    ABSTRACT: G72 is a strong candidate susceptibility gene for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, whose function remains enigmatic. Here we show that one splicing isoform of the gene (LG72) encodes for a mitochondrial protein. We also provide convergent lines of evidence that increase of endogenous or exogenous G72 levels promotes robust mitochondrial fragmentation in mammalian cell lines and primary neurons, which proceeds in a manner that does not depend on induction of apoptosis or alteration in mitochondrial transmembrane potential. Finally, we show that increase in G72 levels in immature primary neurons is accompanied by a marked increase in dendritic arborization. By contrast, we failed to confirm the originally proposed functional interaction between G72 and D-amino acid oxidase (DAO) in two tested cell lines. Our results suggest an alternative role for G72 in modulating mitochondrial function.
    Molecular Psychiatry 08/2008; 13(7):685-96. · 15.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DISC1 is a strong candidate susceptibility gene for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Using a mouse strain carrying an endogenous Disc1 orthologue engineered to model the putative effects of the disease-associated chromosomal translocation we demonstrate that impaired Disc1 function results in region-specific morphological alterations, including alterations in the organization of newly born and mature neurons of the dentate gyrus. Field recordings at CA3/CA1 synapses revealed a deficit in short-term plasticity. Using a battery of cognitive tests we found a selective impairment in working memory (WM), which may relate to deficits in WM and executive function observed in individuals with schizophrenia. Our results implicate malfunction of neural circuits within the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex and selective deficits in WM as contributing to the genetic risk conferred by this gene.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2008; 105(19):7076-81. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia (DISC1) is a leading candidate schizophrenia susceptibility gene. Here, we describe a deletion variant in mDisc1 specific to the 129S6/SvEv strain that introduces a termination codon at exon 7, abolishes production of the full-length protein, and impairs working memory performance when transferred to the C57BL/6J genetic background. Our findings provide insights into how DISC1 variation contributes to schizophrenia susceptibility in humans and the behavioral divergence between 129S6/SvEv and C57BL/6J mouse strains and have implications for modeling psychiatric diseases in mice.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2006; 103(10):3693-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor