TCF7L2 lncRNA: a link between bipolar disorder and body mass index through glucocorticoid signaling

Duan Liu, Thanh Thanh Le Nguyen, Huanyao Gao, Huaizhi Huang, Daniel C. Kim, Brenna Sharp, Zhenqing Ye, Jeong Heon Lee, Brandon J. Coombes, Tamas Ordog, Liewei Wang, Joanna M. Biernacka, Mark A. Frye, Richard M. Weinshilboum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Bipolar disorder (BD) and obesity are highly comorbid. We previously performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for BD risk accounting for the effect of body mass index (BMI), which identified a genome-wide significant single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the gene encoding the transcription factor 7 like 2 (TCF7L2). However, the molecular function of TCF7L2 in the central nervous system (CNS) and its possible role in the BD and BMI interaction remained unclear. In the present study, we demonstrated by studying human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived astrocytes, cells that highly express TCF7L2 in the CNS, that the BD-BMI GWAS risk SNP is associated with glucocorticoid-dependent repression of the expression of a previously uncharacterized TCF7L2 transcript variant. That transcript is a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA-TCF7L2) that is highly expressed in the CNS but not in peripheral tissues such as the liver and pancreas that are involved in metabolism. In astrocytes, knockdown of the lncRNA-TCF7L2 resulted in decreased expression of the parent gene, TCF7L2, as well as alterations in the expression of a series of genes involved in insulin signaling and diabetes. We also studied the function of TCF7L2 in hiPSC-derived astrocytes by integrating RNA sequencing data after TCF7L2 knockdown with TCF7L2 chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) data. Those studies showed that TCF7L2 directly regulated a series of BD risk genes. In summary, these results support the existence of a CNS-based mechanism underlying BD-BMI genetic risk, a mechanism based on a glucocorticoid-dependent expression quantitative trait locus that regulates the expression of a novel TCF7L2 non-coding transcript.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7454-7464
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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