Antipsychotic drug use complicates assessment of gene expression changes associated with schizophrenia

Anton Schulmann, Stefano Marenco, Marquis P. Vawter, Nirmala Akula, Agenor Limon, Ajeet Mandal, Pavan K. Auluck, Yash Patel, Barbara K. Lipska, Francis J. McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Recent postmortem transcriptomic studies of schizophrenia (SCZ) have shown hundreds of differentially expressed genes. However, the extent to which these gene expression changes reflect antipsychotic drug (APD) exposure remains uncertain. We compared differential gene expression in the prefrontal cortex of SCZ patients who tested positive for APDs at the time of death with SCZ patients who did not. APD exposure was associated with numerous changes in the brain transcriptome, especially among SCZ patients on atypical APDs. Brain transcriptome data from macaques chronically treated with APDs showed that APDs affect the expression of many functionally relevant genes, some of which show expression changes in the same directions as those observed in SCZ. Co-expression modules enriched for synaptic function showed convergent patterns between SCZ and some of the APD effects, while those associated with inflammation and glucose metabolism exhibited predominantly divergent patterns between SCZ and APD effects. In contrast, major cell-type shifts inferred in SCZ were primarily unaffected by APD use. These results show that APDs may confound SCZ-associated gene expression changes in postmortem brain tissue. Disentangling these effects will help identify causal genes and improve our neurobiological understanding of SCZ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number93
Pages (from-to)93
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 17 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia/drug therapy
  • Antipsychotic Agents/pharmacology
  • Brain/metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex/metabolism
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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