Pharmacy scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) have identified antidepressant and anti-anxiety behaviors in tests of mice lacking the gene.
Writing in the journal BMC Neuroscience, Elisabeth Barbier, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the School of Pharmacy, and Jia Bei Wang, PhD, professor at the School, concluded after running a battery of standard behavioral tests on the mice without the PKCI/HINT1 gene that it may have an important role in mood regulation.
Mice in the study that had what is being called the “despair” gene eventually gave up trying to avoid apparent danger in tests involving swimming or exposure to light—conditions disliked by mice. Mice without the gene kept trying to escape from danger, perhaps abnormally.
“The knockout mice [without the gene] displayed behaviors indicative of changes in mood function, such as increased perseverance and reduced anxiety in open spaces,“ Wang said.
The causes of mood dysfunction, as seen in depressive and bipolar disorders, are still not fully understood. They are believed to be multifactorial and involve heredity, changes in neurotransmitter levels, altered neuroendocrine function, and psychosocial factors.
“We don’t yet know why the deletion of the gene altered the mood status of the mice,” says Wang, a neuroscientist. She says the protein encoded by the gene could be a potential target for development of diagnostic or therapeutic agents that one day might be used for depression, bipolar disorders or schizophrenia. In addition, the knockout mice might be useful as models to study mania. Currently no mania animal model is available.
The researchers discovered the gene while studying the biological receptors in brain cells that respond to opioid drugs. “I thought [such a] receptor can’t be making the entire change in the body. There must be other proteins,” Wang says. The scientists learned that the gene had already been cloned at Columbia University in the City of New York, where medical researchers were studying its possible role in cancer.
Five years ago, Wang searched scientific literature and found no psychological function for the gene, although it is concentrated in the brain. But she was convinced of its importance because the protein for the gene appears in the genome of living things all along the evolutionary spectrum—from bacteria and fungi to worms to humans. “It must be important. It must be essential otherwise why would all these creatures have it?” Wang says.
Also significant, she says, is that other studies have shown that cadavers of people with biopolar and schizophrenia disorders had less protein encoded by the gene in their brains.
By screening large libraries of chemicals, Wang will next search for compounds that may induce changes in the protein of the gene.
Meanwhile, she says, “We are showing the scientific community that this is an important protein that may have something to do with schizophrenia, bipolar [disorders], and depression. But we don’t know how it works. Certainly this opens the door for work on discovering the mechanism, how it changes behavior. This is the first paper to show that this protein is important to these conditions.”
Wang adds that the work may also provide some clue about the pathological basis of schizophrenia and bipolar conditions—or, as she says, “just what happens to those patients.”
According to the February 2008 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine, more prescriptions in 2007 were dispensed for antidepressants—232.7 million nationwide—than for drugs of any other type. U.S. sales of antidepressants totaled $11.9 billion, according to data from IMS Health, Inc.
Steve Berberich | Newswise Science News
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine