Behavioural and molecular endophenotypes in psychotic disorders reveal heritable abnormalities in glutamatergic neurotransmission.
ABSTRACT: Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are biologically complex and carry huge population morbidity due to their prevalence, persistence and associated disability. Defined by features such as delusions and hallucinations, they involve cognitive dysfunction and neurotransmitter dysregulations that appear mostly to involve the dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems. A number of genetic and environmental factors are associated with these disorders but it has been difficult to identify the biological pathways underlying the principal symptoms. The endophenotype concept of stable, heritable traits that form a mechanistic link between genes and an overt expression of the disorder has potential to reduce the complexity of psychiatric phenotypes. In this study, we used a genetically sensitive design with individuals with a first episode of psychosis, their non-affected first-degree relatives and non-related healthy controls. Metabolomic analysis was combined with neurocognitive assessment to identify multilevel endophenotypic patterns: one concerned reaction times during the performance of cognitive and emotional tests that have previously been associated with the glutamate neurotransmission system, the other involved metabolites involved directly and indirectly in the co-activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, a major receptor of the glutamate system. These cognitive and metabolic endophenotypes may comprise a single construct, such that genetically mediated dysfunction in the glutamate system may be responsible for delays in response to cognitive and emotional functions in psychotic disorders. This focus on glutamatergic neurotransmission should guide drug discovery and experimental medicine programmes in schizophrenia and related disorders.
Project description:Cognitive impairments are common in depression and involve dysfunctional serotonin neurotransmission. The 5-HT1B receptor (5-HT(1B)R) regulates serotonin transmission, via presynaptic receptors, but can also affect transmitter release at heterosynaptic sites. This study aimed at investigating the roles of the 5-HT(1B)R, and its adapter protein p11, in emotional memory and object recognition memory processes by the use of p11 knockout (p11KO) mice, a genetic model for aspects of depression-related states. 5-HT(1B)R agonist treatment induced an impairing effect on emotional memory in wild type (WT) mice. In comparison, p11KO mice displayed reduced long-term emotional memory performance. Unexpectedly, 5-HT(1B)R agonist stimulation enhanced memory in p11KO mice, and this atypical switch was reversed after hippocampal adeno-associated virus mediated gene transfer of p11. Notably, 5-HT(1B)R stimulation increased glutamatergic neurotransmission in the hippocampus in p11KO mice, but not in WT mice, as measured by both pre- and postsynaptic criteria. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy demonstrated global hippocampal reductions of inhibitory GABA, which may contribute to the memory enhancement and potentiation of pre- and post-synaptic measures of glutamate transmission by a 5-HT(1B)R agonist in p11KO mice. It is concluded that the level of hippocampal p11 determines the directionality of 5-HT(1B)R action on emotional memory processing and modulates hippocampal functionality. These results emphasize the importance of using relevant disease models when evaluating the role of serotonin neurotransmission in cognitive deficits related to psychiatric disorders.
Project description:Excessive glutamate release has been linked to stress and many neurodegenerative diseases. Evidence indicates abnormalities of glutamatergic neurotransmission or glutamatergic dysfunction as playing an important role in the development of many major psychiatric disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder). Recently, ketamine, an N-methyl-d-aspartate antagonist, has been demonstrated to have promisingly rapid antidepressant efficacy for treatment-resistant depression. Many compounds that target the glutamate system have also become available that possess potential in the treatment of major psychiatric disorders. In this review, we update evidence from recent human studies that directly or indirectly measured glutamatergic neurotransmission and function in major psychiatric disorders using modalities such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, positron emission tomography/single-photon emission computed tomography, and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation. The newer generation of antidepressants that target the glutamatergic system developed in human clinical studies is also reviewed.
Project description:Hypofunction of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors has been proposed to have an important role in the cognitive impairments observed in schizophrenia. Although glutamate modulators may be effective in reversing such difficult-to-treat conditions, the results of individual studies thus far have been inconsistent. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine whether glutamate positive modulators have beneficial effects on cognitive functions in patients with schizophrenia. A literature search was conducted to identify double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trials in schizophrenia or related disorders, using Embase, Medline, and PsycINFO (last search: February 2015). The effects of glutamate positive modulators on cognitive deficits were evaluated for overall cognitive function and eight cognitive domains by calculating standardized mean differences (SMDs) between active drugs and placebo added to antipsychotics. Seventeen studies (N=1391) were included. Glutamate positive modulators were not superior to placebo in terms of overall cognitive function (SMD=0.08, 95% confidence interval=-0.06 to 0.23) (11 studies, n=858) nor each of eight cognitive domains (SMDs=-0.03 to 0.11) (n=367-940) in this population. Subgroup analyses by diagnosis (schizophrenia only studies), concomitant antipsychotics, or pathway of drugs to enhance the glutamatergic neurotransmission (glycine allosteric site of NMDA receptors or ?-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors) suggested no procognitive effect of glutamate positive modulators. Further, no effect was found in individual compounds on cognition. In conclusion, glutamate positive modulators may not be effective in reversing overall cognitive impairments in patients with schizophrenia as adjunctive therapies.
Project description:In the majority of schizophrenia patients, chronic atypical antipsychotic administration produces a significant reduction in or even complete remission of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. However, these drugs are not effective in improving cognitive and emotional deficits in patients with schizophrenia. Atypical antipsychotic drugs have a high affinity for the dopamine D2 receptor, and a modest affinity for the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. The cognitive and emotional deficits in schizophrenia are thought to involve neural networks beyond the classical dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway, however, including serotonergic systems. For example, mutations in the RELN gene, which encodes Reelin, an extracellular matrix protein involved in neural development and synaptic plasticity, are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, hippocampal Reelin levels are down-regulated in the brains of both schizophrenic patients and in rodent models of schizophrenia. In the present study, we investigated the effect of Reelin microinjection into the mouse hippocampus on behavioral phenotypes to evaluate the role of Reelin in neurodevelopmental disorders and to test a therapeutic approach that extends beyond classical monoamine targets. To model the cognitive and emotional deficits, as well as histological decreases in Reelin-positive cell numbers and hippocampal synaptoporin distribution, a synaptic vesicle protein, offspring that were prenatally exposed to maternal immune activation were used. Microinjections of recombinant Reelin protein into the hippocampus rescued impairments in object memory and anxiety-like behavior and recruited synaptoporin in the hippocampus in offspring exposed to antenatal inflammation. These results suggest that Reelin supplementation has the potential to treat cognitive and emotional impairments, as well as synaptic disturbances, in patients with neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Accumulating evidence suggests the involvement of abnormal glutamateric neurotransmission and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor hypofunction in the pathophysiology of psychotic disorders. The purpose of this study was to quantify in vivo glutamate (Glu) and glycine (Gly) levels in patients with first-episode psychosis as well as age-matched healthy control subjects with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). METHODS:The subjects were 46 patients with first-episode psychosis (20 with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, 26 with bipolar disorder) and 50 age-matched healthy control subjects. Glu and Gly levels were measured in vivo in the anterior cingulate cortex and posterior cingulate cortex of the subjects by using the echo time-averaged proton MRS technique at 4T (i.e., modified point resolved spectroscopy sequence: 24 echo time steps with 20-ms increments). Metabolite levels were quantified using LCModel with simulated basis sets. RESULTS:Significantly higher Glu and Gly levels were found in both the anterior cingulate cortex and posterior cingulate cortex of patients with first-episode psychosis as compared with healthy control subjects. Glu and Gly levels were positively correlated in patients. Patients with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and bipolar disorder showed similar abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings demonstrate abnormally elevated brain Glu and Gly levels in patients with first-episode psychosis by means of echo time-averaged proton MRS at 4T. The findings implicate dysfunction of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor and glutamatergic neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of the acute early phase of psychotic illnesses.
Project description:A major challenge in neuroscience is to resolve the connection between gene functionality, neuronal circuits, and behavior. Most, if not all, neuronal circuits of the adult brain contain a glutamatergic component, the nature of which has been difficult to assess because of the vast cellular abundance of glutamate. In this study, we wanted to determine the role of a restricted subpopulation of glutamatergic neurons within the forebrain, the Vglut2-expressing neurons, in neuronal circuitry of higher brain function. Vglut2 expression was selectively deleted in the cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala of preadolescent mice, which resulted in increased locomotor activity, altered social dominance and risk assessment, decreased sensorimotor gating, and impaired long-term spatial memory. Presynaptic VGLUT2-positive terminals were lost in the cortex, striatum, nucleus accumbens, and hippocampus, and a downstream effect on dopamine binding site availability in the striatum was evident. A connection between the induced late-onset, chronic reduction of glutamatergic neurotransmission and dopamine signaling within the circuitry was further substantiated by a partial attenuation of the deficits in sensorimotor gating by the dopamine-stabilizing antipsychotic drug aripiprazole and an increased sensitivity to amphetamine. Somewhat surprisingly, given the restricted expression of Vglut2 in regions responsible for higher brain function, our analyses show that VGLUT2-mediated neurotransmission is required for certain aspects of cognitive, emotional, and social behavior. The present study provides support for the existence of a neurocircuitry that connects changes in VGLUT2-mediated neurotransmission to alterations in the dopaminergic system with schizophrenia-like behavioral deficits as a major outcome.
Project description:Research findings implicate cerebral glutamate in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, including genetic studies reporting associations with glutamatergic neurotransmission. The extent to which aberrant glutamate levels can be explained by genetic factors is unknown, and if glutamate can serve as a marker of genetic susceptibility for schizophrenia remains to be established. We investigated the heritability of cerebral glutamate levels and whether a potential association with schizophrenia spectrum disorders could be explained by genetic factors. Twenty-three monozygotic (MZ) and 20 dizygotic (DZ) proband pairs con- or discordant for schizophrenia spectrum disorders, along with healthy control pairs (MZ?=?28, DZ?=?18) were recruited via the National Danish Twin Register and the Psychiatric Central Register (17 additional twins were scanned without their siblings). Glutamate levels in the left thalamus and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were measured using 1[H]-magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 3 Tesla and analyzed by structural equation modeling. Glutamate levels in the left thalamus were heritable and positively correlated with liability for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (phenotypic correlation, 0.16, [0.02-0.29]; p?=?0.010). The correlation was explained by common genes influencing both the levels of glutamate and liability for schizophrenia spectrum disorders. In the ACC, glutamate and glx levels were heritable, but not correlated to disease liability. Increases in thalamic glutamate levels found in schizophrenia spectrum disorders are explained by genetic influences related to the disease, and as such the measure could be a potential marker of genetic susceptibility, useful in early detection and stratification of patients with psychosis.
Project description:Dysregulated glutamatergic neurotransmission has been strongly implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia (SCZ). Recently, presynaptic modulation of glutamate transmission has been shown to have therapeutic promise. We asked whether genetic knockdown of glutaminase (gene GLS1) to reduce glutamatergic transmission presynaptically by slowing the recycling of glutamine to glutamate, would produce a phenotype relevant to SCZ and its treatment. GLS1 heterozygous (GLS1 het) mice showed about a 50% global reduction in glutaminase activity, and a modest reduction in glutamate levels in brain regions relevant to SCZ pathophysiology, but displayed neither general behavioral abnormalities nor SCZ-associated phenotypes. Functional imaging, measuring regional cerebral blood volume, showed hippocampal hypometabolism mainly in the CA1 subregion and subiculum, the inverse of recent clinical imaging findings in prodromal and SCZ patients. GLS1 het mice were less sensitive to the behavioral stimulating effects of amphetamine, showed a reduction in amphetamine-induced striatal dopamine release and in ketamine-induced frontal cortical activation, suggesting that GLS1 het mice are resistant to the effects of these pro-psychotic challenges. Moreover, GLS1 het mice showed clozapine-like potentiation of latent inhibition, suggesting that reduction in glutaminase has antipsychotic-like properties. These observations provide further support for the pivotal role of altered glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the pathophysiology of SCZ, and suggest that presynaptic modulation of the glutamine-glutamate pathway through glutaminase inhibition may provide a new direction for the pharmacotherapy of SCZ.
Project description:Emotion dysfunction has long been considered a cardinal feature across psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and affective psychosis. However, few studies have used objective markers of emotional function to compare psychotic disorders to one another, and fewer studies have examined such markers within a longitudinal framework. Here, we examine one objective marker of emotional responsivity, the late positive potential (LPP), which is a centro-parietal event-related potential (ERP) that tracks the dynamic allocation of attention to emotional vs. neutral stimuli. We used the LPP to characterize abnormal emotional responsivity by relating it to negative, depressive, and psychotic symptoms among two clinical groups: individuals diagnosed with affective psychosis and individuals with schizophrenia. We also used a long-term longitudinal framework, examining concurrent associations between LPP amplitude and symptom severity, as well as prospective associations with symptoms 4 years later. Participants were 74 individuals with psychotic illness: 37 with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and 37 with a primary affective disorder (psychotic bipolar disorder, psychotic depression). There were no mean-level differences in LPP amplitude between the schizophrenia spectrum and primary affective psychosis group. In the primary affective psychosis group, reduced LPP amplitude was associated with greater depressive, negative, and psychotic symptom severity, both concurrently and at follow-up; associations between LPP and symptoms were not observed within the schizophrenia spectrum group. This pattern of results suggests that the neural correlates of emotion dysfunction may differ across psychotic disorders. One possibility is that schizophrenia is characterized by a decoupling of symptom severity and emotional processing. Such findings underscore the importance of analyzing transdiagnostic samples to determine common or specific symptom relationships across various patient populations.
Project description:Converging evidence indicates that dysfunctions in glutamatergic neurotransmission and in the glutamate-glutamine cycle play a role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Here, we investigated glutamate and glutamine levels in the blood of patients with recent onset schizophrenia or chronic schizophrenia compared to healthy controls. Compared with healthy controls, patients with recent onset schizophrenia showed increased glutamine/glutamate ratio, while patients with chronic schizophrenia showed decreased glutamine/glutamate ratio. Results indicate that circulating glutamate and glutamine levels exhibit a dual behavior in schizophrenia, with an increase of glutamine/glutamate ratio at the onset of schizophrenia followed by a decrease with progression of the disorder. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the mechanisms and consequences of changes in circulating glutamate and glutamine in schizophrenia.