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May 3, 2007

Two Kinds of Damage to a Gene Associated with Different Mental Disorders

  • Scientists found that different kinds of damage to the same gene can cause some people to suffer from schizophrenia while others have major depression.

    Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Riken studied two types of damage to the DISC1 gene (disrupted in schizophrenia 1). Previous research, identified a link between this gene and schizophrenia, manic depression, and major depression. The gene was also found to be essential for brain signalling and plays a key role in learning, memory, and mood.

    The team looked at the behavior of mice with two types of damage in the gene. One mutant mouse strain exhibited behavioral abnormalities and memory deficiencies resembling the symptoms of schizophrenia in humans. The other mutant mouse strain showed behaviors that reflected depressive symptoms. The investigators also determined that one group responded better to antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia while the other responded better to antidepressants.

    Both types of DISC1 mutant mice exhibited the same kind of reduced brain volume seen in people with schizophrenia and depression. Also, both types showed biochemical abnormalities in the function of the protein produced by the DISC1 gene.

    The study is published in Neuron.


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