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Scientists find gene linked to schizophrenia

This release is available in French.

Montreal, April 12, 2010 An international study led by Universit de Montral scientists suggests that gene mutations may predispose some individuals to schizophrenia and provides new clues about the causes of this ambiguous disorder. Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the findings demonstrate that new mutations in the SHANK3 gene are found in schizophrenic patients.

"That these de novo or new mutations occur in schizophrenia is rather unexpected and may explain why the identification of the genes linked to this disease has been so difficult," says senior author Guy Rouleau, a Universit de Montral professor, director of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and a scientist at the Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universit de Montral.

"Our findings show that a significant number of schizophrenia cases are the result of new genetic mutations in the SHANK3 gene. Where previous approaches have failed, our detailed analyses and rich patient database led us to this discovery. We are convinced that future studies will validate the SHANK3 gene as a marker for schizophrenia," continues Dr. Rouleau, who is Canada Research Chair in Genetics of the Nervous System.

Autism and schizophrenia link

"The SHANK3 gene has previously been linked to autism," adds lead author Julie Gauthier, a Universit de Montral researcher. "Not only does this suggest a molecular genetic link between these two neurodevelopmental disorders, it suggests that SHANK3 may have a role in other brain disorders."

SHANK3 is protein involved in maintaining the physical structure of nerve cells. Mutations in this gene result in specific abnormalities in cell shapes. These deformations have been observed in some schizophrenia patients, providing further evidence of the importance of the SHANK3 gene in this disorder.

These findings were made possible through the collaboration of several institutions such as the Harvard Medical School, McGill University and the Universit Paris Descartes; please read on for complete list of funders and partners.


Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
University of Montreal

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