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Developmental critical period in genetic redox dysregulation: animal and human studies in schizophrenia
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Converging evidence favors an abnormal susceptibility to oxidative stress in schizophrenia. Decreased levels of glutathione (GSH), the major cellular antioxidant and redox regulator, was observed in cerebrospinal-fluid and prefrontal cortex of patients. Importantly, abnormal GSH synthesis of genetic origin was observed: Two case-control studies showed an association with a GAG trinucleotide repeat (TNR) polymorphism in the GSH key synthesizing enzyme glutamate-cysteine-ligase (GCL) catalytic subunit (GCLC) gene. The most common TNR genotype 7/7 was more frequent in controls, whereas the rarest TNR genotype 8/8 was three times more frequent in patients. The disease associated genotypes (35% of patients) correlated with decreased GCLC protein, GCL activity and GSH content. Similar GSH system anomalies were observed in early psychosis patients. Such redox dysregulation combined with environmental stressors at specific developmental stages could underlie structural and functional connectivity anomalies. In pharmacological and knock-out (KO) models, GSH deficit induces anomalies analogous to those reported in patients. (a) morphology: spine density and GABA-parvalbumine immunoreactivity (PV-I) were decreased in anterior cingulate cortex. KO mice showed delayed cortical PV-I at PD10. This effect is exacerbated in mice with increased DA from PD5-10. KO mice exhibit cortical impairment in myelin and perineuronal net known to modulate PV connectivity. (b) physiology: In cultured neurons, NMDA response are depressed by D2 activation. In hippocampus, NMDA-dependent synaptic plasticity is impaired and kainate induced g-oscillations are reduced in parallel to PV-I. (c) cognition: low GSH models show increased sensitivity to stress, hyperactivity, abnormal object recognition, olfactory integration and social behavior. In a clinical study, GSH precursor N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) as add on therapy, improves the negative symptoms and decreases the side effects of antipsychotics. In an auditory oddball paradigm, NAC improves the mismatched negativity, an evoked potential related to pre-attention and to NMDA receptors function. In summary, clinical and experimental evidence converge to demonstrate that a genetically induced dysregulation of GSH synthesis combined with environmental insults in early development represent a major risk factor contributing to the development of schizophrenia
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