The way in which neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, are regulated has been clarified by Georgetown University Medical Center researchers. This is a finding that may provide new therapeutic targets for depression.
Drugs currently used to treat depression target the regulatory process for neurotransmitters, and while effective in some cases, do not appear to work in other cases.
Previous studies have suggested that synucleins, a family of small proteins in the brain, are key players in the management of neurotransmitters -- specifically, alpha- and gamma-synuclein.
Also, researchers had found elevated levels of gamma-synuclein in the brains of both depressed animals and humans.
In a new study, they observed increased depressive-like behavior in mice where gamma-synuclein acts alone to regulate neurotransmitters, confirming earlier studies by this group.
"These findings show the importance of, and clarify a functional role for, gamma synuclein in depression and may provide new therapeutic targets in treatment of this disease," said Adam Oaks, a student researcher in the Laboratory of Molecular Neurochemistry at GUMC.
"Understanding how current therapies work with the synucleins is important because the drugs don't work for all patients, and some are associated with side effects including an increased risk of suicide," Oaks added.
The study has been presented at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.