Abnormalities of the Duo/Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1/p21-activated kinase 1 pathway drive myosin light chain phosphorylation in frontal cortex in schizophrenia

Academic Article


  • Background: Recent studies on GTPases have suggested that reduced Duo and cell division cycle 42 (Cdc42) transcript expression is involved in dendritic spine loss in schizophrenia. In murine models, Duo and Cdc42 phosphorylate p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1), which modifies the activity of regulatory myosin light chain (MLC) and cofilin by altering their phosphorylation. Therefore, we hypothesized that in schizophrenia abnormal Duo and Cdc42 expression result in changes in MLC and/or cofilin phosphorylation, which might alter actin cytoskeleton dynamics underlying dendritic spine maintenance. Methods: We performed Western blot protein expression analysis in postmortem brains from patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and a comparison group. We focused our studies in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; n = 33 comparison group; n = 36 schizophrenia) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; n = 29 comparison group; n = 35 schizophrenia). Results: In both ACC and DLPFC, we found a reduction of Duo expression and PAK1 phosphorylation in schizophrenia. Cdc42 protein expression was decreased in ACC but not in DLPFC. In ACC, we observed decreased PAK1 phosphorylation and increased MLC phosphorylation (pMLC), whereas in DLPFC pMLC remained unchanged. Conclusions: These data suggest a novel mechanism that might underlie dendritic spine loss in schizophrenia. The increase in pMLC seen in ACC might be associated with dendritic spine shrinkage. The lack of an effect on pMLC in DLPFC suggests that in schizophrenia PAK1 downstream pathways are differentially affected in these cortical areas. © 2012 Society of Biological Psychiatry.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rubio MD; Haroutunian V; Meador-Woodruff JH
  • Start Page

  • 906
  • End Page

  • 914
  • Volume

  • 71
  • Issue

  • 10