January 19, 2017
By Toni Baker, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
Mutations in a gene that should enable memories and a sense of direction instead can result in imprecise communication between neurons that contributes to symptoms of schizophrenia, scientists report.
They found that dramatically reducing the amount of protein expressed by TMEM108, a gene already associated with schizophrenia, results in fewer, smaller spines, which work like communication fingers for neurons, said neuroscientist Dr. Lin Mei.
That translates to an impaired ability for neurons to receive whatever signals surrounding neurons are trying to send and mice displaying schizophrenia-like behavioral deficits such as impaired cognition and sense of direction.
"We knew this gene's alteration likely contributed to schizophrenia and we wanted to better understand how," said Mei, chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience and a corresponding author of the study in the journal PNAS.