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Int Rev Neurobiol. 2007;78:327-76.

Involvement of neuropeptide systems in schizophrenia: human studies.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Neuropeptides are heterogeneously distributed throughout the digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems and serve as neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, and hormones. Neuropeptides are phylogenetically conserved and have been demonstrated to regulate numerous behaviors. They have been hypothesized to be pathologically involved in several psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. On the basis of preclinical data, numerous studies have sought to examine the role of neuropeptide systems in schizophrenia. This chapter reviews the clinical data, linking alterations in neuropeptide systems to the etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of schizophrenia. Data for the following neuropeptide systems are included: arginine-vasopressin, cholecystokinin (CCK), corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), interleukins, neuregulin 1 (NRG1), neurotensin (NT), neuropeptide Y (NPY), opioids, secretin, somatostatin, tachykinins, thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Data from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), postmortem and genetic studies, as well as clinical trials are described. Despite the inherent difficulties associated with human studies (including small sample size, variable duration of illness, medication status, the presence of comorbid psychiatric disorders, and diagnostic heterogeneity), several findings are noteworthy. Postmortem studies support disease-related alterations in several neuropeptide systems in the frontal and temporal cortices. The strongest genetic evidence supporting a role for neuropeptides in schizophrenia are those studies linking polymorphisms in NRG1 and the CCKA receptor with schizophrenia. Finally, the only compounds that act directly on neuropeptide systems that have demonstrated therapeutic efficacy in schizophrenia are neurokinin receptor antagonists. Clearly, additional investigation into the role of neuropeptide systems in the etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of schizophrenia is warranted.

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