Molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2007;20(6):687-702. doi: 10.1159/000110430.


Schizophrenia is a complex disorder, where family, twin and adoption studies have been demonstrating a high heritability of the disease and that this disease is not simply defined by several major genes but rather evolves from addition or potentiation of a specific cluster of genes, which subsequently determines the genetic vulnerability of an individual. Linkage and association studies suggest that a genetic vulnerablility, is not forcefully leading to the disease since triggering factors and environmental influences, i.e. birth complications, drug abuse, urban background or time of birth have been identified. This has lead to the assumption that schizophrenia is not only a genetically defined static disorder but a dynamic process leading to dysregulation of multiple pathways. There are several different hypothesis based on several facets of the disease, some of them due to the relatively well-known mechanisms of therapeutic agents. The most widely considered neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia integrates environmental influences and causative genes. The dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia is based on the fact that all common treatments involve antidopaminergic mechanisms and genes such as DRD2, DRD3, DARPP-32, BDNF or COMT are closely related to dopaminergic system functioning. The glutamatergic hypothesis of schizophrenia lead recently to a first successful mGlu2/3 receptor agonistic drug and is underpinned by significant findings in genes regulating the glutamatergic system (SLC1A6, SLC1A2 GRIN1, GRIN2A, GRIA1, NRG1, ErbB4, DTNBP1, DAAO, G72/30, GRM3). Correspondingly, GABA has been proposed to modulate the pathophysiology of the disease which is represented by the involvement of genes like GABRA1, GABRP, GABRA6 and Reelin. Moreover, several genes implicating immune, signaling and networking deficits have been reported to be involved in the disease, i.e. DISC1, RGS4, PRODH, DGCR6, ZDHHC8, DGCR2, Akt, CREB, IL-1B, IL-1RN, IL-10, IL-1B. However, molecular findings suggest that a complex interplay between receptors, kinases, proteins and hormones is involved in schizophrenia. In a unifying hypothesis, different cascades merge into another that ultimately lead to the development of symptoms adherent to schizophrenic disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / enzymology
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / immunology
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Dopamine