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Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

ISSN Print: 0892-0915

Archives: Volume 10, 1996 to Volume 20, 2008

Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevNeurobiol.v16.i12.10
pages 1-23

A GABAergic Cortical Deficit Dominates Schizophrenia Pathophysiology

Erminio Costa
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1601 W. Taylor St., Chicago IL 60612, USA
J. M. Davis
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
E. Dong
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Dennis R. Grayson
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Illinois, USA
Alessandro Guidotti
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Illinois, USA
Lucio Tremolizzo
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Illinois, USA
Marin Veldic
The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Illinois, USA

ABSTRACT

Several lines of evidence support the role of an epigenetic-induced GABAergic cortical dysfunction in schizophrenia psychopathology, which is probably dependent on an increase in the expression of DNA-methyltransferase-1 occurring selectively in GABAergic neurons. The key enzyme regulating GABA synthesis, termed glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67) and the important neurodevelopmental protein called reelin are coexpressed in GABAergic neurons. Upon release, GABA and reelin bind to postsynaptic receptors located in dendrites, somata, or the axon initial segment of pyramidal neurons. Because GAD67 and reelin are downregulated in schizophrenia, it is suggested that schizophrenics may express GABAergic deficit-related alterations of pyramidal neuron function. A reduction of dendritic spines is a finding reported in the prefrontal cortex of schizophrenia patients. Because dendritic spines are innervated by glutamatergic axon terminals, very probably this reduction of dendritic spine expression is translated into a functional deficit of glutamatergic transmission. Plastic modifications of neuronal circuits are probably dependent on GABAergic transmitter tone, and it is likely that GABAergic dysfunction is at the root of synaptic plasticity deficits in schizophrenia. Thus, a possible avenue for the treatment of schizophrenia would be to address this GABAergic functional deficit using positive allosteric modulators of the action of GABA at GABAA receptors. Benzodiazepines (BZ) such as diazepam are effective in treating positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but because they positively modulate GABAA receptors expressing α1 subunits, these BZs cause sedation and tolerance. In contrast, imidazenil, a full allosteric modulator of GABAA receptors expressing α5 subunits may reduce psychotic symptomatology without producing sedation. Hence, imidazenil should be appropriately studied as a prospective candidate for a pharmacological intervention in schizophrenia.