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Schizophr Res. 2001 Mar 1;48(1):125-36.

Evidence for a mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation defect in brains from patients with schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Friedrich-Schiller Universität, Philosophenweg 3, 07740, Jena, Germany.


In-vivo imaging studies and post-mortem studies have demonstrated an impairment of energy metabolism in brains of patients with schizophrenia. Decreased oxidative metabolism has been consistently documented in the frontal lobes. However, the biochemical basis of these changes is unclear. The changes could be caused by reduced requirement of the cells for metabolic energy or an abnormality in energy generation. Neurons generate energy through the respiratory chain in the mitochondria. The respiratory chain consists of five enzyme complexes (I-V). The purpose of the present study was to assess mitochondrial function and test the hypothesis of an underlying oxidative phosphorylation defect in schizophrenia. We analysed spectrophotometrically post-mortem brain specimens of frontal cortex, temporal cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum of 12 patients who met the DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia and of 13 healthy controls for the specific activities of respiratory chain enzymes in the mitochondria. The major finding was that the activity of complex IV was significantly reduced in the frontal cortex (40.9+/-6.7 vs. 87.3+/-12, P=0.003) and in the temporal cortex (39.5+/-6.8 vs. 78+/-10.8, P=0.006) of schizophrenics. In addition, the activity of complexes I+III was significantly reduced in the temporal cortex (2.2+/-0.6 vs. 4.4+/-0.5, P=0.01) and basal ganglia (1.6+/-0.5 vs. 3.4+/-0.3, P=0.015) in schizophrenia. All other enzyme activities showed no differences to healthy controls. The results confirm a defect of oxidative phosphorylation in brains from patients with schizophrenia, which may contribute to impaired energy generation.

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