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Pharmacogenetics in model systems: defining a common mechanism of action for mood stabilisers.

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Department of Biology and Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London, Gower St., London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


Defining the underlying causes of psychiatric disorders has provided an ongoing and intractable problem. The analysis of the genetic basis of manic depression, in particular, has been impeded by the absence of a suitable model system and by the lack of candidate causative genes. One recent approach to overcome these problems has involved identifying those genes which control the sensitivity to anti-manic drugs in a model organism. Characterisation of the role of these genes and their encoded proteins in this model has allowed the analysis of their mammalian homologues to elucidate the therapeutic role of these drugs and the possible aetiology of manic depression. This approach has been used successfully with the cellular slime mould, Dictyostelium discoideum. This article introduces the use of model systems for pharmacogenetics research. It describes the identification of prolyl oligopeptidase in D. discoideum as a modulator of inositol phosphate signalling, and the subsequent identification of a common mechanism of action of three anti-manic drugs in mammalian neurons. The use of pharmacogenetics in model systems will provide a powerful tool for the ongoing analysis of both the treatment and cause of psychiatric disorders.

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