The cause for the development of schizophrenia has been identified by VIB researchers connected to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
The scientists say that a disturbed cleavage of the Nrg-1 protein lies at the basis of the development of the disease.
Greater understanding of this molecular process is a first step toward improved diagnosis and more effective treatment of schizophrenia and other related disorders.
The disease is characterized by episodes of psychotic symptoms: abnormal ideas and changes in perception, behavior and thinking occur, through which it is difficult to understand how the person feels. Typical symptoms of the disorder are: delusions, hallucinations, chaotic behavior, etc.
Previous scientific studies have shown that a disturbed functioning of the Nrg-1 protein is linked to the development of the disease.
Now, the latest research results obtained by Tim Dejaegere and his colleagues reveal how the functioning of Nrg-1 becomes disturbed.
The Nrg-1 protein - an essential factor in the development and proper functioning of our nervous system and, consequently, in the functioning of our brain - can carry out its function properly only after it has been cleaved in the right way.
This cleavage is the responsibility of a molecular 'scissors' called Aph1B/C-gamma-secretase.
When this scissors is absent, Nrg-1 is not cleaved, which leads to behavioral disturbances in laboratory animals that bear a striking similarity to some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
This syndrome can be corrected by administering anti-psychotic medicines.
Additional studies have also shown that a genetic alteration near the site of Nrg-1 cleavage, which was detected in schizophrenia patients and which increases the risk of this disease, results in incorrect cleavage of Nrg-1 by the gamma-secretase.
The researchers have suggested that a disturbed cleavage of Nrg-1 plays a crucial role in the development of schizophrenia and other related psychiatric disorders.
This discovery is a new step forward in the quest for improved diagnosis and targeted treatment of the disease.