The findings suggest that the processor, which helps regulate key neurotransmitters in an area of the brain linked to schizophrenia, could eventually play a key role in reversing the brain dysfunctions associated with the disease. The study appears in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
Dr. William Bunney, the Della Martin professor of psychiatry at UCI; Dr. Paul Greengard, professor of neuroscience at Rockefeller University; and Dr. Hugh Hemmings, professor of anesthesiology at Weill Cornell, and their colleagues found the processor, a chemical called DARPP-32, was reduced in the brains of deceased victims of schizophrenia.
DARPP-32 is the subject of increasing scientific scrutiny. The neurotransmitters dopamine, glutamate and serotonin; the antidepressant Prozac; and even drugs of abuse like cocaine, opiates and nicotine all have been found to work on the brain through the actions of DARPP-32. The molecule is suspected of integrating information throughout the brain and providing a blueprint for physiological activity. Greengard won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000 for his work on DARPP-32.
"DARPP-32 is a key regulatory protein, involved in controlling receptors, ion channels and other physiological factors and is activated and de-activated ultimately by neurotransmitters that are implicated in the development of schizophrenia," Greengard said. "A reduction of DARPP-32 required for functions in the brain could contribute to the cognitive dysfunction seen in the disease."
The researchers studied the brains of 14 deceased people who had schizophrenia. DARPP-32 was found to be reduced significantly in an area of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which has consisten
Contact: Andrew Porterfield
University of California - Irvine