Sex differences in DEK expression in the anterior cingulate cortex and its association with dementia severity in schizophrenia


DEK is a chromatin-remodeling phosphoprotein found in most human tissues, but its expression and function in the human brain is largely unknown. DEK depletion in vitro induces cellular and molecular anomalies associated with cognitive impairment, including down-regulation of the canonical Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway. ToppGene analyses link DEK loss to genes associated with various dementias and age-related cognitive decline. To examine the role of DEK in cognitive impairment in severe mental illness, DEK protein expression was assayed by immunoblot in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of subjects with schizophrenia. Cognitive impairment is a core feature of schizophrenia and cognitive function in subjects was assessed antemortem using the clinical dementia rating (CDR) scale. DEK protein expression was not significantly altered in schizophrenia (n=20) compared to control subjects (n=20). Further analysis revealed significant reduction in DEK protein expression in women with schizophrenia, and a significant increase in expression in men with schizophrenia, relative to their same-sex controls. DEK protein expression levels were inversely correlated with dementia severity in women. Conversely, in men, DEK protein expression and dementia severity were positively correlated. Notably, there was no sex difference in DEK protein expression in the control group, suggesting that this sex difference is specific to schizophrenia and not due to inherent differences in DEK expression between males and females. These results suggest a novel, sex-specific role for DEK in cognitive performance and highlight a putative sex-specific link between central nervous system DEK protein expression and a neuropsychiatric disease that is commonly associated with cognitive impairment.