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Abnormal neurotransmission is central to schizophrenia (SZ). Alterations across multiple neurotransmitter systems in SZ suggest that this illness may be associated with dysregulation of core intracellular processes such as signaling pathways that underlie the regulation and integration of these systems. The AKT-mTOR signaling cascade has been implicated in SZ by gene association, postmortem brain and animal studies. AKT and mTOR are serine/threonine kinases which play important roles in cell growth, proliferation, survival, and differentiation. Both AKT and mTOR require phosphorylation at specific sites for their complete activation. mTOR forms two functionally distinct multiprotein complexes, mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and Complex 2 (mTORC2). mTORC1 mediates ribosome biogenesis, protein translation, and autophagy, whereas mTORC2 contributes to actin dynamics. Altered protein synthesis and actin dynamics can lead to an abnormal neuronal morphology resulting in deficits in learning and memory. Currently, there is a lack of direct evidence to support the hypothesis of disrupted mTOR signaling in SZ, and we have addressed this by characterizing this signaling pathway in SZ brain. We found a reduction in AKT and mTOR protein expression and/or phosphorylation state in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) from 22 pairs of SZ and matched comparison subjects. We also found reduced protein expression of GβL, a subunit protein common to both mTOR complexes. We further investigated mTOR complex-specific subunit composition and phosphorylation state, and found abnormal mTOR expression in both complexes in SZ DLPFC. These findings provide evidence that proteins associated with the AKT-mTOR signaling cascade are downregulated in SZ DLPFC.


Radhika Chadha, James H Meador-Woodruff. Downregulated AKT-mTOR signaling pathway proteins in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in Schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 May;45(6):1059-1067

PMID: 31952070

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