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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jan 16;98(2):625-8. Epub 2001 Jan 9.

A peripheral marker for schizophrenia: Increased levels of D3 dopamine receptor mRNA in blood lymphocytes.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and its receptors are associated with a number of neuropathological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia. Although the precise pathophysiology of schizophrenia remains unknown, the dopaminergic hypothesis of the illness assumes that the illness results from excessive activity at dopamine synapses in the brain. Because, at present, the diagnosis of schizophrenia relies on descriptive behavioral and symptomatic information, a peripheral measurable marker may enable a simpler, more rapid, and more accurate diagnosis and monitoring. In recent years, human peripheral blood lymphocytes have been found to express several dopamine receptors (D(3), D(4), and D(5)) by using molecular biology techniques and binding assays. It has been suggested that these dopamine receptors found on lymphocytes may reflect receptors found in the brain. Here we demonstrate a correlation between the D(3) dopamine receptor on lymphocytes and schizophrenia and show a significant elevation of at least 2-fold in the mRNA level of the D(3), but not of the D(4), dopamine receptor in schizophrenic patients. This increase is not affected by different antipsychotic drug treatments (typical or atypical). Moreover, nonmedicated patients exhibit the same pattern, indicating that this change is not a result of medical treatment. We propose the D(3) receptor mRNA on blood lymphocytes as a marker for identification and followup of schizophrenia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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