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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

A Novel microRNA and transcription factor mediated regulatory network in schizophrenia

An-Yuan Guo1, Jingchun Sun12, Peilin Jia12 and Zhongming Zhao123*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA

3 Bioinformatics Resource Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4:10  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-10

Published: 15 February 2010



Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder with molecular mechanisms that have yet to be elucidated. Previous studies have suggested that changes in gene expression may play an important role in the etiology of schizophrenia, and that microRNAs (miRNAs) and transcription factors (TFs) are primary regulators of this gene expression. So far, several miRNA-TF mediated regulatory modules have been verified. We hypothesized that miRNAs and TFs might play combinatory regulatory roles for schizophrenia genes and, thus, explored miRNA-TF regulatory networks in schizophrenia.


We identified 32 feed-forward loops (FFLs) among our compiled schizophrenia-related miRNAs, TFs and genes. Our evaluation revealed that these observed FFLs were significantly enriched in schizophrenia genes. By converging the FFLs and mutual feedback loops, we constructed a novel miRNA-TF regulatory network for schizophrenia. Our analysis revealed EGR3 and hsa-miR-195 were core regulators in this regulatory network. We next proposed a model highlighting EGR3 and miRNAs involved in signaling pathways and regulatory networks in the nervous system. Finally, we suggested several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located on miRNAs, their target sites, and TFBSs, which may have an effect in schizophrenia gene regulation.


This study provides many insights on the regulatory mechanisms of genes involved in schizophrenia. It represents the first investigation of a miRNA-TF regulatory network for a complex disease, as demonstrated in schizophrenia.