Background: Though the dysfunction of central dopaminergic system has been proposed, the etiology or pathogenesis of schizophrenia is still uncertain partly due to limited accessibility to dopamine receptor. The purpose of this study was to define whether or not the easily accessible dopamine receptors of peripheral lymphocytes can be the peripheral markers of schizophrenia.
Results: 44 drug-medicated schizophrenics for more than 3 years, 28 drug-free schizophrenics for more than 3 months, 15 drug-naïve schizophrenic patients, and 31 healthy persons were enrolled. Sequential reverse transcription and quantitative polymerase chain reaction of the mRNA were used to investigate the expression of D3 and D5 dopamine receptors in peripheral lymphocytes. The gene expression of dopamine receptors was compared in each group. After taking antipsychotics in drug-free and drug-naïve patients, the dopamine receptors of peripheral lymphocytes were sequentially studied 2nd week and 8th week after medication. In drug-free schizophrenics, D3 dopamine receptor mRNA expression of peripheral lymphocytes significantly increased compared to that of controls and drug-medicated schizophrenics, and D5 dopamine receptor mRNA expression increased compared to that of drug-medicated schizophrenics. After taking antipsychotics, mRNA of dopamine receptors peaked at 2nd week, after which it decreases but the level was above baseline one at 8th week. Drug-free and drug-naïve patients were divided into two groups according to dopamine receptor expression before medications, and the group of patients with increased dopamine receptor expression had more severe psychiatric symptoms.
Conclusions: These results reveal that the molecular biologically-determined dopamine receptors of peripheral lymphocytes are reactive, and that increased expression of dopamine receptor in peripheral lymphocyte has possible clinical significance for subgrouping of schizophrenis.