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Altered activity in receptor pair points to further complexity in schizophrenia pathology

(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists at the City University of New York, have identified a striking dysregulation in neuronal receptor activity in the postmortem brain tissue from patients with schizophrenia. By stimulating receptors in the prefrontal cortex, the research team tracked heightened levels of erbB4 receptor activity, as well as decreased NMDA receptor activity in the tissue from patients with schizophrenia. Additionally, they were able to identify a relationship between these two receptor groups, suggesting a mechanism for decreased NMDA receptor function that has long been suspected in schizophrenia. The researchers report their findings in this week's advanced online issue of Nature Medicine.

Schizophrenia, a mental disorder afflicting approximately one percent of the world population, is characterized by a variety of symptoms such as: hallucinations, paranoia, disorganized behavior and the inability to experience pleasure. Previous studies of the brains of patients with schizophrenia suggest altered function in the prefrontal cortex, the brain's organizational center for cognitive function, personality expression, and behavioral control. International, large-scale genetic studies of patients with schizophrenia have pointed researchers to a gene called neuregulin 1 (NRG1), which appears to play a role in determining one's susceptibility to the disease.

Chang-Gyu Hahn, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Steven Arnold, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology, and Raquel Gur, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, and colleagues at Penn, in collaboration with Hoau-Yan Wang, Ph.D., at The City University of New York, took an approach to use NRG1 protein to activate its neuronal receptor, erbB4, to measure the molecular response in postmortem brain tissue.

The binding of NRG1 to erbB4 stimulates neuronal receptor activity b
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Contact: karen kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
16-Jun-2006


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