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Ankyrin 3: genetic association with bipolar disorder and relevance to disease pathophysiology

Melanie P Leussis123, Jon M Madison123 and Tracey L Petryshen123*

Author Affiliations

1 Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

3 Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

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Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2012, 2:18  doi:10.1186/2045-5380-2-18

Published: 1 October 2012


Bipolar disorder (BD) is a multi-factorial disorder caused by genetic and environmental influences. It has a large genetic component, with heritability estimated between 59-93%. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using large BD patient populations have identified a number of genes with strong statistical evidence for association with susceptibility for BD. Among the most significant and replicated genes is ankyrin 3 (ANK3), a large gene that encodes multiple isoforms of the ankyrin G protein. This article reviews the current evidence for genetic association of ANK3 with BD, followed by a comprehensive overview of the known biology of the ankyrin G protein, focusing on its neural functions and their potential relevance to BD. Ankyrin G is a scaffold protein that is known to have many essential functions in the brain, although the mechanism by which it contributes to BD is unknown. These functions include organizational roles for subcellular domains in neurons including the axon initial segment and nodes of Ranvier, through which ankyrin G orchestrates the localization of key ion channels and GABAergic presynaptic terminals, as well as creating a diffusion barrier that limits transport into the axon and helps define axo-dendritic polarity. Ankyrin G is postulated to have similar structural and organizational roles at synaptic terminals. Finally, ankyrin G is implicated in both neurogenesis and neuroprotection. ANK3 and other BD risk genes participate in some of the same biological pathways and neural processes that highlight several mechanisms by which they may contribute to BD pathophysiology. Biological investigation in cellular and animal model systems will be critical for elucidating the mechanism through which ANK3 confers risk of BD. This knowledge is expected to lead to a better understanding of the brain abnormalities contributing to BD symptoms, and to potentially identify new targets for treatment and intervention approaches.

Ankyrin G; Bipolar disorder; Schizophrenia; Genome-wide association study; GWAS; Axon initial segment; Nodes of Ranvier; GABA; Neurogenesis; Synapse