DISC1 regulates N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor dynamics: abnormalities induced by a Disc1 mutation modelling a translocation linked to major mental illness

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 6;8(1):184. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0228-1.


The neuromodulatory gene DISC1 is disrupted by a t(1;11) translocation that is highly penetrant for schizophrenia and affective disorders, but how this translocation affects DISC1 function is incompletely understood. N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) play a central role in synaptic plasticity and cognition, and are implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia through genetic and functional studies. We show that the NMDAR subunit GluN2B complexes with DISC1-associated trafficking factor TRAK1, while DISC1 interacts with the GluN1 subunit and regulates dendritic NMDAR motility in cultured mouse neurons. Moreover, in the first mutant mouse that models DISC1 disruption by the translocation, the pool of NMDAR transport vesicles and surface/synaptic NMDAR expression are increased. Since NMDAR cell surface/synaptic expression is tightly regulated to ensure correct function, these changes in the mutant mouse are likely to affect NMDAR signalling and synaptic plasticity. Consistent with these observations, RNASeq analysis of the translocation carrier-derived human neurons indicates abnormalities of excitatory synapses and vesicle dynamics. RNASeq analysis of the human neurons also identifies many differentially expressed genes previously highlighted as putative schizophrenia and/or depression risk factors through large-scale genome-wide association and copy number variant studies, indicating that the translocation triggers common disease pathways that are shared with unrelated psychiatric patients. Altogether, our findings suggest that translocation-induced disease mechanisms are likely to be relevant to mental illness in general, and that such disease mechanisms include altered NMDAR dynamics and excitatory synapse function. This could contribute to the cognitive disorders displayed by translocation carriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Mood Disorders / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Translocation, Genetic*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Disc1 protein, mouse
  • Gprin1 protein, mouse
  • NR2B NMDA receptor
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Trak1 protein, mouse