Leisa A. Glantz, John H. Gilmore, David H. Overstreet, Kayvon Salimi, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, L. Fredrik Jarskog
Although the etiology of schizophrenia remains unknown, diverse neuropathological evidence suggests a disorder of synaptic connectivity. Apoptosis is a form of cell death that helps determine synaptic circuitry during neurodevelopment and altered regulation of apoptosis has been implicated in schizophrenia. Prostate apoptosis response-4 (Par-4) is an upstream regulator of apoptosis preferentially localized to synapses. Brain Par-4 levels are upregulated in response to pro-apoptotic stimuli in rodent models and in patients with classic neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, Par-4 was also found to form a complex with the dopamine D2 receptor (D2DR) in competition with the calcium-binding protein calmodulin, implicating Par-4 as an important regulatory component in normal dopamine signaling. Interestingly, mutant mice with disrupted Par-4/D2DR interaction demonstrated depressive-like behaviors, suggesting a potential role for Par-4 in both depression and schizophrenia. In this study, Par-4, D2DR and calmodulin protein levels were measured using semiquantitative Western blotting in postmortem temporal cortex in subjects with schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. Compared to normal controls, mean Par-4 levels appeared slightly lower in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, in major depression, Par-4 was decreased by 67% compared to normal controls. No differences were found between any groups for calmodulin or for the D2DR 48kDa band. The D2DR 98kDa band was lower by 50% in the schizophrenia compared to control groups. Changes in the Par-4/D2DR signaling pathway represent a novel mechanism that may link apoptotic and dopamine signaling pathways in major depression and schizophrenia.