Cortical expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and glutamine synthetase is decreased in schizophrenia


Altered expression of structural and functional molecules expressed by astrocytes may play a role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. We investigated the hypothesis that the astrocytic enzyme glutamine synthetase, involved in maintaining the glutamate-glutamine cycle, and the cytoskeletal molecule glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) are abnormally expressed in schizophrenia. We used Western blot analysis to measure levels of glutamine synthetase and GFAP in several brain regions of subjects with schizophrenia and a comparison group. We found that glutamine synthetase protein expression was significantly decreased in the superior temporal gyrus, and both glutamine synthetase and GFAP were significantly reduced in the anterior cingulate cortex in schizophrenia. Neither molecule demonstrated altered expression in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, primary visual cortex, or hippocampus. Chronic treatment with haloperidol did not alter the expression of these molecules in the rat brain, suggesting that our findings are not due to a medication effect. These data support an astrocytic component to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and suggest that astrocytic molecules involved in enzymatic activity and cytoskeletal integrity may have a role in disease-related abnormalities in this illness.