Article |

Abnormal Excitatory Neurotransmitter Metabolism in Schizophrenic Brains

Guochuan Tsai, MD, PhD; Lucius A. Passani, MS; Barbara S. Slusher, PhD; Ruth Carter; Lee Baer, PhD; Joel E. Kleinman, MD, PhD; Joseph T. Coyle, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1995;52(10):829-836. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950220039008.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Background:  Schizophrenia has been hypothesized to be caused by a hypofunction of glutamatergic neurons. Findings of reduced concentrations of glutamate in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with schizophrenia and the ability of glutamate-receptor antagonists to cause psychotic symptoms lend support to this hypothesis. N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG), a neuropeptide that is highly concentrated in glutamatergic neurons, antagonizes the effects of glutamate at N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors. Moreover, NAAG is cleaved to glutamate and N-acetylaspartate by a specific peptidase, N-acetyl-α—linked acidic dipeptidase (NAALADase). To test the glutamatergic hypothesis of schizophrenia, we studied the NAAG-related glutamatergic variables in postmortem brains from patients with schizophrenia, neuroleptic-treated controls, and normal individuals, with particular emphasis on the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

Method:  Different regions of frozen brain tissue from three different groups (patients with schizophrenia, neuroleptictreated controls, and normal controls) were assayed to determine levels of NAAG, N-acetylaspartate, NAALADase, and several amino acids, including aspartate and glutamate.

Results:  Our study demonstrates alterations in brain levels of aspartate, glutamate, and NAAG and in NAALADase activity. Levels of NAAG were increased and NAALADase activity and glutamate levels were decreased in the schizophrenic brains. Notably, the changes in NAAG level and NAALADase activity in schizophrenic brains were more selective than those for aspartate and glutamate. In neuroleptic-treated control brains, levels of aspartate, glutamate, and glycine were found to be increased.

Conclusions:  The changes in levels of aspartate, glutamate, NAAG, and NAALADase are prominent in the prefrontal and hippocampal regions, where previous neuropathological studies of schizophrenic brains demonstrate consistent changes. These findings support the hypothesis that schizophrenia results from a hypofunction of certain glutamatergic neuronal systems. They also suggest that the therapeutic efficacy of neuroleptics may be related to increased glutamatergic activity.


Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours





Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).
Submit a Comment


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.