Schizophrenia Gene Variant Linked to Risk Traits

Press Release- August 11th 2004

Researchers at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have identified a relationship between a small section of one gene, the brain chemical messenger glutamate, and a collection of traits known to be associated with schizophrenia . The finding confirms the gene responsible for management of glutamate is a promising candidate in determining risk for schizophrenia. The study, conducted by Michael Egan, M.D., Daniel Weinberger, M.D., and colleagues, is in the August 24th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online the week of August 9, 2004.

Glutamate is a key neurotransmitter long thought to play a role in schizophrenia. The gene identified in this study makes the glutamate receptor (GRM3), which is responsible for regulating glutamate in synapses-spaces in between brain cells-where chemicals like glutamate transfer information from cell to cell. The amount of glutamate remaining in the synapse may have a downstream impact on cognition.

"Because of the small effects of individual genes in complex genetic disorders like schizophrenia, it is difficult to make significant associations with any one particular marker. However, this study brings us closer to unlocking the genetic clues that increase the risk for schizophrenia," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.


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