Schizophrenia remains, to this day, one of the psychiatric disorders most enigmatic. However, a recent protein discovery may well bring a few pieces to the puzzle.
The study by researchers at USC DornSife College focused on a protein named “SAP97”. She finds herself in brain neurons and would be strongly linked to psychiatric disorders. The scientists also suggest that mutations inhibiting the function of SAP97 could lead to schizophrenia.
An unexpected discovery
SAP97 belongs to a family of proteins that regulate glutamatergic signaling. It is an important means of communication between neurons. However, the real function of the SAP97 remained unknown for several decades. It is by trying to solve this mystery that scientists have had the semblance of answers to a larger enigma.
At first, the experiments did not reveal the role of this protein. As a result, scientists decided toexamine another region of the brain theoretically linked to schizophrenia. This area is called “dentate gyrus”.
The researchers thus discovered a link between mutations that impede the function of SAP97 and the disease. Indeed, these changes would considerably increase the risk of schizophrenia.
“The reduced function of SAP97 may very well be behind the largest increase in risk of schizophrenia in humans that we know of, but the function of SAP97 has been a complete mystery for decades. Our study reveals where SAP97 functions in the brain and shows exactly what mutations in this protein associated with schizophrenia do to neurons. »
Bruce Herring, assistant professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife
somewhere in the hippocampus
the dentate gyrus is located in the hippocampuspart of the brain in charge of memory and some space navigation. In addition, he would also control the “remembering life experiences”. This contextual episodic memory is often altered in people with schizophrenia.
In the experiment, the researchers studied rats whose the SAP97 protein had been damaged. The results reportedly demonstrated that dentate gyrus neurons with reduced SAP97 function exhibited a increased glutamatergic signaling. This suggests that protein normally contributes to regulate glutamate specifically in the dentate gyrus.
The reduced activity of SAP97 also led to significant deficits in contextual episodic memory in rodents.
A new advance towards the prediction of schizophrenia?
This study would be the first to establish a link between SAP97 alterations and the development of schizophrenia. The results would also have pinpointed exactly where the protein is active in the brain.
This recent research could allow scientists to know exactly where to look and what to look for. Thus, it would be possible identify the risks of schizophrenia before the first symptoms appear. Which could lead to new diagnostic, preventive and treatment measures.