Transcriptome analysis of human induced excitatory neurons supports a strong effect of clozapine on cholesterol biosynthesis

Debamitra Das, Xi Peng, Anh Thu N. Lam, Joel S. Bader, Dimitrios Avramopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Antipsychotics are known to modulate dopamine and other neurotransmitters which is often thought to be the mechanism underlying their therapeutic effects. Nevertheless, other less studied consequences of antipsychotics on neuronal function may contribute to their efficacy. Revealing the complete picture behind their action is of paramount importance for precision medicine and accurate drug selection. Progress in cell engineering allows the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and their differentiation to a variety of neuronal types, providing new tools to study antipsychotics. Here we use excitatory cortical neurons derived from iPSCs to explore their response to therapeutic levels of Clozapine as measured by their transcriptomic output, a proxy for neuronal homeostasis. To our surprise, but in agreement with the results of many investigators studying glial-like cells, Clozapine had a very strong effect on cholesterol metabolism. More than a quarter (12) of all annotated cholesterol genes (46) in the genome were significantly changed at FDR < 0.1, all upregulated. This is a 35-fold enrichment with an adjusted p = 8 × 10–11. Notably no other functional category showed evidence of enrichment. Cholesterol is a major component of the neuronal membrane and myelin but it does not cross the blood brain barrier, it is produced locally mostly by glia but also by neurons. By singling out increased expression of cholesterol metabolism genes as the main response of cortical excitatory neurons to antipsychotics, our work supports the hypothesis that cholesterol metabolism may be a contributing mechanism to the beneficial effects of Clozapine and possibly other antipsychotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-326
Number of pages3
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Antipsychotics
  • Cholesterol metabolism
  • Clozapine
  • Gene expression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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