Elevated levels of human endogenous retrovirus-W transcripts in blood cells from patients with first episode schizophrenia

Y. Yao, J. Schröder, C. Nellåker, C. Bottmer, S. Bachmann, R. H. Yolken, H. Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


We previously reported on the differential presence of transcripts related to the human endogenous retrovirus (HERV)-W family in cerebrospinal fluid and plasma from patients with first-episode schizophrenia compared with control individuals. Whether this is a consequence of qualitative or quantitative differences in transcription of genomic regions harboring HERV-W elements is not known. The purpose of the present study was therefore to characterize the transcribed HERV-W elements in mononuclear cells obtained from 30 patients first hospitalized for schizophrenia-related psychosis and from 26 healthy control individuals. We observed elevated total levels of HERV-W gag (2.1-fold, P < 0.01) but not env transcripts in the cells of patients compared with controls. By using the melting temperatures of the amplicons as a proxy marker for sequence identity, no absolute qualitative differences was detected between the two groups. Mapping of the detected transcripts identified several intronic and intergenic HERV-W elements transcribed in the cells, including elements previously considered transcriptionally silent. Element-specific assays revealed elevated levels of intronic transcripts containing HERV-W gag sequence from the putative gene PTD015 on chromosome 11q13.5 (1.6-fold, P < 0.05) in the patients compared with the controls. Thus, studies aiming to further understanding of complex human disease such as schizophrenia may need to be extended beyond the strictly protein-coding fraction of the transcriptome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • HERV-W
  • PTD015
  • Real-time PCR
  • Recent-onset
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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