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Brain. 2013 Nov;136(Pt 11):3242-51. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt264. Epub 2013 Oct 3.

Midbrain dopamine function in schizophrenia and depression: a post-mortem and positron emission tomographic imaging study.

Author information

1
1 King's College London, Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK.

Abstract

Elevated in vivo markers of presynaptic striatal dopamine activity have been a consistent finding in schizophrenia, and include a large effect size elevation in dopamine synthesis capacity. However, it is not known if the dopaminergic dysfunction is limited to the striatal terminals of dopamine neurons, or is also evident in the dopamine neuron cell bodies, which mostly originate in the substantia nigra. The aim of our studies was therefore to determine whether dopamine synthesis capacity is altered in the substantia nigra of people with schizophrenia, and how this relates to symptoms. In a post-mortem study, a semi-quantitative analysis of tyrosine hydroxylase staining was conducted in nigral dopaminergic cells from post-mortem tissue from patients with schizophrenia (n = 12), major depressive disorder (n = 13) and matched control subjects (n = 13). In an in vivo imaging study, nigral and striatal dopaminergic function was measured in patients with schizophrenia (n = 29) and matched healthy control subjects (n = 29) using (18)F-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine ((18)F-DOPA) positron emission tomography. In the post-mortem study we found that tyrosine hydroxylase staining was significantly increased in nigral dopaminergic neurons in schizophrenia compared with both control subjects (P < 0.001) and major depressive disorder (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference in tyrosine hydroxylase staining between control subjects and patients with major depressive disorder, indicating that the elevation in schizophrenia is not a non-specific indicator of psychiatric illness. In the in vivo imaging study we found that (18)F-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine uptake was elevated in both the substantia nigra and in the striatum of patients with schizophrenia (effect sizes = 0.85, P = 0.003 and 1.14, P < 0.0001, respectively) and, in the voxel-based analysis, was elevated in the right nigra (P < 0.05 corrected for family wise-error). Furthermore, nigral (18)F-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine uptake was positively related with the severity of symptoms (r = 0.39, P = 0.035) in patients. However, whereas nigral and striatal (18)F-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine uptake were positively related in control subjects (r = 0.63, P < 0.001), this was not the case in patients (r = 0.30, P = 0.11). These findings indicate that elevated dopamine synthesis capacity is seen in the nigral origin of dopamine neurons as well as their striatal terminals in schizophrenia, and is linked to symptom severity in patients.

KEYWORDS:

F-DOPA; brain imaging; depression; dihydroxyphenyl-l-alanine; dopamine; post-mortem; psychosis; schizophrenia; striatum; substantia nigra; tyrosine

PMID:
24097339
PMCID:
PMC3808688
DOI:
10.1093/brain/awt264
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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