Postmortem gene expression profiles in the habenulae of suicides: implication of endothelial dysfunction in the neurovascular system

Hyun Jung Kim, Hyeijung Yoo, Ji Yeon Kim, Soo Hyun Yang, Hyun Woo Lee, Heon Jeong Lee, Gi Hoon Son, Hyun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The habenula (Hb) is an epithalamic structure that links multiple forebrain areas with the mid/hindbrain monoaminergic systems. As an anti-reward center, it has been implicated in the etiology of various neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly those associated with dysregulated reward circuitry. In this regard, Hb has been proposed as a therapeutic target for treatment-resistant depression associated with a higher risk of suicide. Therefore, we aimed to gain insight into the molecular signatures of the Hb in association with suicide in individuals with major depression. Postmortem gene expression analysis identified 251 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the Hb tissue of suicides in comparison with Hb tissues from neurotypical individuals. Subsequent bioinformatic analyses using single-cell transcriptome data from the mouse Hb showed that the levels of a subset of endothelial cell-enriched genes encoding cell–cell junctional complex and plasma membrane-associated proteins, as well as the levels of their putative upstream transcriptional regulators, were significantly affected in suicides. Although our findings are based on a limited number of samples, the present study suggests a potential association of endothelial dysfunction in the Hb with depression and suicidal behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalMolecular brain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grants funded by the Korea Government Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2019M3C7A1032764 to GHS and NRF-2017M3C7A1079692 to HK), and by the Korea University Research Grants to GHS and HK.

Funding Information:
We appreciate Dr. Gustavo Turecki (Douglas Hospital Research Center, McGill University, Montreal, Canada) for providing habenular RNA samples and personal communications for the results. We would like to thank Editage ( for English language editing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Depression
  • Gene expression
  • Habenula
  • Postmortem
  • Suicide
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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