Neuroimaging and molecular genetics of schizophrenia: pathophysiological advances and therapeutic potential

S M Lawrie, J Hall, A M McIntosh, D G Cunningham-Owens, E C Johnstone
2009 British Journal of Pharmacology  
There is impressive evidence for the involvement of several genetic risk factors in the aetiopathogenesis of schizophrenia. Most of these genes impact on neuropharmacological systems. Examining their relationship with brain imaging indices is arguably the best currently available method of examining these effects in vivo. In a sample of young, initially healthy people at high genetic risk of schizophrenia brain structure was measured with structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) and brain
more » ... nction was indexed with neuropsychological tests and functional MRI. Regular detailed clinical assessments established whether subjects had developed psychotic symptoms and/or schizophrenia itself. The Catechol-O-Methyl Transferase (COMT) Val allele increased the risk of schizophrenia in this cohort in a dose-dependent manner. Subjects with this allele had reduced grey matter density in anterior cingulate cortex and increased fMRI activation in lateral prefrontal cortex and anterior and posterior cingulate. The risk allele in the Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) promoter region, on the other hand, was associated with the development of psychotic symptoms, decreased premorbid IQ and decreased activation of pre-frontal and temporal lobe regions. The NRG1 gene appears to be a risk factor for an extended or intermediate phenotype, while the COMT Val allele, which decreases the rate at which cortical dopamine is degraded compared to the Met allele, is associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia in subjects at increased familial risk. We provide examples of how these advances in our knowledge could lead to the development of new treatments for psychosis.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707655 pmid:18193072 pmcid:PMC2268055 fatcat:gvl5m4c3rnd6ljaqvhsvbj6c2m