New dopamine brain target discovered

January 23, 2007

A team of Canadian researchers, lead by Dr. Susan George and Dr. Brian O'Dowd at the Centre for Addiction and Mental health (CAMH), discovered a distinct dopamine signalling complex in the brain. Composed of two different types of dopamine receptors, this novel target may have a significant role in understanding and treating schizophrenia.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (Rashid et al., 2007), this important discovery demonstrates the existence of a Gq/11-coupled signalling unit that triggers a calcium signal, which is turned on by stimulating D1 and D2 dopamine receptors. Unlike other dopamine receptors, this novel unit will only create brain signals when both receptors are stimulated at the same time.

Using animal models. Drs. George and O'Dowd and their team identified this complex by its unique reaction to dopamine or specific drug triggers. Strikingly, stimulating this target with dopamine or specific drugs triggered a rise in calcium in the brain. As calcium has a profound effect on almost all brain function, this rise in calcium causes a cascade of events in the brain. This is the first time that a direct connection between dopamine and calcium signals has been reported.

"This distinct unit provides a novel signalling pathway through which dopamine can impact the function of brain cells", said Dr. George. "This is significant because signalling through calcium release is a major mechanism regulating many important functions in the brain and we have provided the first direct mechanism by which dopamine can activate a calcium signal."

This data has significant implications for schizophrenia. Research tells us that people with schizophrenia may have disordered calcium signals, and the major treatments for this disease target the dopamine system. Drs. George and O'Dowd state, "our data links these two pieces of evidence, creating better understanding of the disease and opening the door for a new generation of highly specific drugs that may help alleviate the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia."

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Explore further: First direct evidence for synaptic plasticity in fruit fly brain

Related Stories

Copper on the brain

May 27, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—The value of copper has risen dramatically in the 21st century as many a thief can tell you, but in addition to the thermal and electrical properties that make it such a hot commodity metal, copper has ...

Subtle chemical changes in brain can alter sleep-wake cycle

April 28, 2016

A study out today in the journal Science sheds new light on the biological mechanisms that control the sleep-wake cycle. Specifically, it shows that a simple shift in the balance of chemicals found in the fluid that bathes ...

Controlling individual neurons with your brain

April 9, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—In many ways humans are universal machines. We can generate an answer to any question asked of us or move our body into any configuration our joints permit. We can do this near-instantaneously, and with ...

Recommended for you

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.