advertisement-vertical Download Proto magazine app
Social Icons

Trouble Spots

Ten gene variants implicated as risk factors for two widespread mental illnesses.

By Charles Schmidt // Fall 05

A growing number of gene variants have been implicated as risk factors for mental illness. Here are 10 that seem to play a role in depression and schizophrenia.




DEPRESSION Serotonin transporter May exacerbate lifelong tendency toward anxiety and vulnerability to stress.
  Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) May interfere with development, survival and plasticity of neurons in brain regions related to mood.
  Tryptophan hydroxylase 2 Seems to produce sharply lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, but that finding has yet to be replicated.
SCHIZOPHRENIA Catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) Possibly interferes with the normal function of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in cognition and reward.
  Dysbindin Reduced expression may compromise normal functioning of synapses. (Many experts believe schizophrenia is at least in part a synaptic signaling disorder.)
  Neuregulin 1 May cause malformed synapses and may interfere with function of neurotransmitters such as glutamate.
  RGS4 Expression of this gene, which normally helps to reduce the activity of several neurotransmitters, may be lower in the brains of schizophrenics.
  DISC1 Linkage and association studies have implicated this gene, which may be related to hippocampal development and function.
  GRM3 May interfere with normal function of glutamate.
  G72 Studies in German, Han Chinese and other populations report associations between schizophrenia and this gene, which may disrupt synaptic function.

The Scarlet Gene

With the human genome laid bare, scientists are narrowing their search for the roots of mental illness.

Protomag on Facebook Protomag on Twitter