New genes consistently associated with schizophrenia include NRG1, Akt, DISC-1 and dysbindin-1. Since these genes participate in neurotransmission, neuroplasticity and neurodevelopment it has not been easy to elucidate which of these roles are abnormal in patients with schizophrenia. Neurite formation is identified as a crucial stage in development, and it is proposed that a defect in neurite formation originating from abnormally encoded proteins by these new genes could be at least an in vitro marker that reflects the most consistent molecular and neuroanatomical findings in schizophrenia. A systematic review of the literature linking the process of neurite formation to genes with replicated evidence that supported their association with schizophrenia was conducted. In addition, an outline of the process of neurite formation was included. Neurite formation was shown to be induced by neuregulins, the product of the gene NRG1. The activation of Akt, a serine/threonine kinase, promoted neurite formation in six independent studies. Conversely, two studies found that Akt inhibits neurite outgrowth. Stronger evidence supporting an association with the new genes related to schizophrenia and neurite formation comes from DISC-1. Defects in DISC-1 protein were shown to directly alter the process of neurite formation. Dysbindin-1 has not yet been directly implicated in neurite outgrowth. These findings suggest that the proteins encoded by NRG1, Akt and DISC-1 are implicated in the process of neurite formation in cellular models as well as, at least in part, animal models during development. Abnormalities in this process could have potential etiologic implications for schizophrenia. Direct evidence, however, of abnormal neurite formation in patients with schizophrenia is still missing. Limitations to this model are identified.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience