Researchers at Mount Sinai found a new receptor complex in the brain of mice which responded to so many antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia.
They found that the receptor complex also reacts to hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD.
The research team was led by Stuart Sealfon, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Translational Systems Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
'The psychosis associated with schizophrenia is characterized by alterations in sensory processing and perception. The discovery of this receptor complex could provide a new target for developing drugs to treat schizophrenia,' Nature quoted Dr. Sealfon, as saying.
In the study, the researchers found that the two receptors, neurotransmitters glutamate and serotonin, interact and work with each other as a hybrid complex in mice. It was also discovered that hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, function as serotonin receptors resulting in responses similar to some of the core symptoms of schizophrenia.
It was shown that functional complexes in brain cortex are formed by the interaction between glutamate receptor and serotonin receptor. This receptor complex initiates exclusive cellular responses after they are targeted by hallucinogenic drugs.
When glutamate receptor is activated, it blocks hallucinogen-specific signaling and also leads to changes in behavioural responses in mice.
In people who have not been treated for schizophrenia, the serotonin receptor is up-regulated and the glutamate receptor is downregulated. This is a pattern that could influence towards psychosis.
According to the findings the newly identified serotonin/glutamate complex may play a crucial role in the altered cortical processes of schizophrenia.
"The findings further our understanding of how hallucinations occur. They suggest a brain abnormality that may contribute to the abnormal brain function in schizophrenia. We can now use this information to do further study and hopefully develop more specific drug therapies for treating patients who suffer from hallucinations and psychosis," Dr. Sealfon, as said.
This new study was published online in Nature.