ScienceDaily (May 15, 2012) — A novel mechanism for anxiety behaviors, including a previously unrecognized inhibitory brain signal, may inspire new strategies for treating psychiatric disorders, University of Chicago researchers report.
By testing the controversial role of a gene called Glo1 in anxiety, scientists uncovered a new inhibitory factor in the brain: the metabolic by-product methylglyoxal. The system offers a tantalizing new target for drugs designed to treat conditions such as anxiety disorder, epilepsy, and sleep disorders.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that animals with multiple copies of the Glo1 gene were more likely to exhibit anxiety-like behavior in laboratory tests. Further experiments showed that Glo1 increased anxiety-like behavior by lowering levels of methylglyoxal (MG). Conversely, inhibiting Glo1 or raising MG levels reduced anxiety behaviors.
“Animals transgenic for Glo1 had different levels of anxiety-like behavior, and more copies made them more anxious,” said Abraham Palmer, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago Medicine and senior author of the study. “We showed that Glo1 was causally related to anxiety-like behavior, rather than merely correlated.”
In 2005, a comparison of different mouse strains found a link between anxiety-like behaviors and Glo1, the gene encoding the metabolic enzyme glyoxylase 1. However, subsequent studies questioned the link, and the lack of an obvious connection between glyoxylase 1 and brain function or behavior made some scientists skeptical.
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