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Mol Psychiatry. 2003 Sep;8(9):797-810.

Presynaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia and rats with abnormal prefrontal development.

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  • 1Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Mental Health, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia may be associated with abnormalities in synaptic structure and/or function and reflected in altered concentrations of proteins in presynaptic terminals and involved in synaptic plasticity (synaptobrevin/ vesicle-associated membrane protein (VAMP), synaptosomal-associated protein-25 (SNAP-25), syntaxin, synaptophysin and growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43)). We examined the immunoreactivity of these synapse-associated proteins via quantitative immunoblotting in the prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia (n=18) and in normal controls (n=23). We also tested the stability of these proteins across successive post-mortem intervals in rat brains (at 0, 3, 12, 24, 48, and 70 h). To investigate whether experimental manipulation of prefrontal cortical development in the rat alters prefrontal synaptic protein levels, we lesioned the ventral hippocampus of rats on postnatal day 7 and measured immunoreactivity of presynaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex on postnatal day 70. VAMP immunoreactivity was lower in the schizophrenic patients by 22% (P<0.03). There were no differences in the immunoreactivity of any other proteins measured in schizophrenic patients as compared to the matched controls. Proteins were fairly stable up to 24 h and thereafter the abundance of most proteins examined was significantly reduced (falling to as low as 20% of baseline levels at 48-70 h). VAMP immunoreactivity was higher in the lesioned rats as compared to sham controls by 22% (P&<0.03). There were no significant differences between the lesioned rats and sham animals in any other presynaptic protein. These data suggest that apparently profound prefrontal cortical dysfunction in schizophrenia, as well as in an animal model of schizophrenia, may exist without gross changes in the abundance of many synaptic proteins but discrete changes in selected presynaptic molecules may be present.

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