Novel Antischizophrenia Treatments

Volume 213 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 401-417


Nicotinic Receptors and Functional Regulation of GABA Cell Microcircuitry in Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

  • Francine M. BenesAffiliated withProgram in Structural and Molecular Neuroscience, McLean HospitalProgram in Neuroscience and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School Email author 


Studies of the hippocampus in postmortem brains from patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have provided evidence for a defect of GABAergic interneurons. Significant decreases in the expression of GAD67, a marker for GABA cell function, have been found repeatedly in several different brain regions that include the hippocampus. In this region, nicotinic receptors are thought to play an important role in modulating the activity of GABAergic interneurons by influences of excitatory cholinergic afferents on their activity. In bipolar disorder, this influence appears to be particularly prominent in the stratum oriens of sectors CA3/2 and CA1, two sites where these cells constitute the exclusive neuronal cell type. In sector CA3/2, this layer receives a robust excitatory projection from the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and this is thought to play a central role in regulating GABA cells at this locus. Using laser microdissection, recent studies have focused selectively on these two layers and their associated GABA cells using microarray technology. The results have provided support for the idea that nicotinic cholinergic receptors play a particularly important role in regulating the activity of GABA neurons at these loci by regulating the progression of cell cycle and the repair of damaged DNA. In bipolar disorder, there is a prominent reduction in the expression of mRNAs for several different nicotinic subunit isoforms. These decreases could reflect a diminished influence of this receptor system on these GABA cells, particularly in sector CA3/2 where a preponderance of abnormalities have been observed in postmortem studies. In patients with bipolar disorder, excitatory nicotinic cholinergic fibers from the medial septum may converge with glutamatergic fibers from the BLA on GABAergic interneurons in the stratum oriens of CA3/2 and result in disturbances of their genomic and functional integrity, ones that may induce disruptions of the integration of microcircuitry within this region.


Cholinergic CA3/2 CA1 Cell fate DNA repair G1 arrest G2 checkpoint Transcriptional complex MBD4