Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Schizophrenia gene's role may be broader, more potent, than thought

23.11.2009
UCSF scientists studying nerve cells in fruit flies have uncovered a new function for a gene whose human equivalent may play a critical role in schizophrenia.

Scientists have known that the mutated form of the human gene – one of three consistently associated with schizophrenia – mildly disrupts the transmission of chemical signals between nerve cells in the brain.

The new study focuses on genes involved in "adaptive plasticity," the capacity of nerve cells to compensate for a wide range of perturbations and continue to function normally.

Studies ranging from fruit flies to human have shown that if a nerve cell is functionally impaired then the surrounding cells can compensate and restore normal cell-to-cell communication. This type of "adaptive plasticity" stabilizes brain function, but the molecules involved remain largely unknown.

In the current study, the team screened 276 mutated, or disabled, fly genes to determine if their absence revealed a role in adaptive plasticity in the fruit fly nervous system. While absence of most of the genes had no impact on adaptive plasticity, the absence of the gene known as dysbindin did.

The finding, reported in the November 20, 2009 issue of Science, was dramatic, says the senior author of the study, Graeme Davis, PhD, Albert Bowers Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF.

"Mutation of the gene completely prevented the capacity of the neural circuitry to respond to an experimental perturbation, to be adaptive. The dysbindin mutation was one of very few gene mutations that had this effect," he says. "The gene's unique function suggests to us that impaired adaptive plasticity may have particular relevance to the cause or progression of schizophrenia."

Schizophrenia generally emerges in people in their late teens or early adulthood. It's possible, says Davis, that normal developmental changes at this stage of life represent a significant stress to ongoing, stable neural function. If so, he says, the capacity of the nervous system to respond to these normal developmental changes – which in a sense are perturbations – may be impaired in people who become schizophrenic.

The next question the researchers will ask," he says, "is whether absence of the dysbindin gene causes a blockade of adaptive plasticity in mice and whether other genes linked to schizophrenia cause a similar block of adaptive plasticity."

The study, led by Dion K. Dickman, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Davis lab, also revealed a more general insight into the mechanisms of adaptive plasticity because they were able to rule out the involvement of numerous genes that were previously considered as candidate players.

"We tested numerous mutations that alter neural function, and most showed perfectly fine adaptive plasticity." he says, "This suggests that there are distinct roles for genes at the synapse, some support normal neural function while a small subset control adaptive plasticity."

The phenomenon of adaptive plasticity, a burgeoning area of inquiry in the neurosciences, was first recognized more than a decade ago. Early studies by Davis, a pioneer of the field, showed that when genes functioning in the fruit fly nervous system were mutated, the nervous system would compensate and the animals appeared remarkably normal.

Davis has explored this and related phenomena at the neuromuscular junction in the fruit fly, or Drosophila melanogaster. He's been asking how neural function is stabilized but also how the physical connections between nerve cells are stabilized and maintained throughout life. He would like to understand how this process sometimes fails, leading to neurodegeneration, such as occurs in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

"It's become clear that the nervous system is remarkably stable, but not as one might suspect," says Davis. "It is continuously responsive to a changing environment, which allows us to learn and remember and to respond to environmental change. There probably are many processes that are sensing the environment, continually updating neural function and neural structure in order to keep the brain stable. If we can understand how stability is maintained in the nervous system, perhaps we could understand what happens when stability is lost and disease ensues."

"These are big questions that reach far beyond our current understanding of brain function," he says. "This is the power and importance of basic science. By studying fundamental questions, you can discover unexpected phenomenon and also create new perspectives for understanding existing diseases, even if the human genes are known." The new finding, he says, "may add a new dimension to the conversation about the origins of schizophrenia."

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Jennifer O'Brien | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsf.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>