Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Bioinformatics - (M.S.)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Zhi Wei

Second Advisor

Usman W. Roshan

Third Advisor

Jason T. L. Wang

Abstract

Schizophrenia is a mental illness with a complex and as of yet unclear etiology. It is highly heritable and has a strong polygenic character, however, studies examining the genetics of schizophrenia have not sufficiently explained all variability in its prevalence. Environmental causes are theorized to have a non trivial contribution to the pathoetiology of schizophrenia, including interactions with genetic components, but these mechanisms remain unclear. Analyzing schizophrenia dysfunction using transcriptomic approaches is a paradigm still in its infancy, and fewer studies still have examined non neurological contributions to schizophrenia pathology with next generation sequencing technologies. This pilot study uses several tools to probe changes in gene expression and isoform prevalence, and to detect the presence of viral genomes that may contribute to schizophrenia pathoetiology. Findings of interest include a robust genetic response associated with hypoxia and downstream changes in gene expression that may have direct consequences on schizophrenia symptomatology, and the presence of viral transcripts suggesting an active viral infection in a schizophrenic patient. While these findings are not definitive proof that these events are directly correlated with schizophrenia pathoetiology, they suggest intriguing directions to pursue in next generation sequencing research to clarify this complex disorder.

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