A Schizophrenia-Linked KALRN Coding Variant Alters Neuron Morphology, Protein Function, and Transcript Stability

Theron A. Russell, Melanie J. Grubisha, Christine L. Remmers, Seok Kyu Kang, Marc P. Forrest, Katharine R. Smith, Katherine J. Kopeikina, Ruoqi Gao, Robert A. Sweet, Peter Penzes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Large-scale genetic studies have revealed that rare sequence variants, including single nucleotide variants (SNVs), in glutamatergic synaptic genes are enriched in schizophrenia patients. However, the majority are too rare to show any association with disease and have not been examined functionally. One such SNV, KALRN-P2255T, displays a penetrance that greatly exceeds that of previously identified schizophrenia-associated SNVs. Therefore, we sought to characterize its effects on the function of kalirin (Kal)-9, a dual Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 and Ras homologue gene family, member A (RhoA) guanine nucleotide exchange factor, upregulated in human schizophrenia brain tissue. Methods: Kal9 was overexpressed in primary rat cortical neurons or human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK293) cells. The effects of the P2255T variant on dendritic branching, dendritic spine morphology, protein and messenger RNA stability, and catalytic activity were examined. Results: Kal9-P2255T leads to diminished basal dendritic branching and dendritic spine size, compared with wild-type Kal9. The P2255T SNV directly affected Kal9 protein function, causing increased RhoA activation in HEK293 cells, but had no effect on Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 activation. Consistent with human postmortem findings, we found that Kal9-P2255T protein levels were higher than those of wild-type Kal9 in neurons. Increased messenger RNA stability was detected in HEK293 cells, indicating that this was the cause of the higher protein levels. When analyzed together, increased intrinsic RhoA guanine nucleotide exchange factor catalytic activity combined with increased messenger RNA expression led to net enhancement of RhoA activation, known to negatively impact neuronal morphology. Conclusions: Taken together, our data reveal a novel mechanism for disease-associated SNVs and provide a platform for modeling morphological changes in mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-508
Number of pages10
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2018


  • Dendrites
  • Dendritic spines
  • Guanine nucleotide exchange factors
  • Kalirin
  • Schizophrenia
  • Single nucleotide variants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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