August 8, 2014 – Gene Function
Anchor lead: How does a newly identified gene associated with suicide risk work? Elizabeth Tracey reports
How can a gene called SKA2 be associated with suicide risk, as shown recently by Johns Hopkins investigators? Zachary Kaminsky, principal investigator, explains.
Kaminsky: Under normal circumstances what we think is happening is that the SKA2 gene that we’ve identified is helping the stress hormone receptor into the nucleus to allow it to shut down the normal stress response. But now with this molecular mark we’ve identified we’re getting less SKA2 and so we’re getting less of an ability to help the glucocorticoid receptor shut down stress. So when we get stressed out we can’t shut it off. That’s what we think is happening on a molecular level. :27
Kaminsky says this may well be a crucial element linking stress level to suicide, and may also help explain observations of suicide risk running in families. More work needs to be done, however, since additional modifications to the gene known as epigenetic changes are also involved. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.