Nobelist Discovers Antidepressant Protein in Mouse Brain
A protein that seems to be pivotal in lifting depression has been discovered by a Nobel Laureate researcher funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Schmalfeldt: A protein that seems to be pivotal in lifting depression has been discovered by a Nobel Laureate researcher funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Doctor Paul Greengard, a Rockefeller University neuroscientist who received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine reports that mice deficient in a protein called "p11" display depression-like behaviors, while those with sufficient quantities behave as if they had been treated with anti-depressants. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of NIMH, says this is an exciting discovery.
Insel: This new paper takes us into entirely new territory. This isn't about "how much serotonin, it's not about "how many receptors." It's about what happens within the cell after serotonin binds to its receptor.
Schmalfeldt: The finding led researchers to suspect that p11 levels might be directly involved in the development of depression, anxiety, and similar psychiatric illnesses thought to involve faulty serotonin receptors. Dr. Insel explained the significance.
Insel: Now we've got a whole new candidate to ask, "Is there something amiss with p11?" Is there a mutation? Is there too much (or) too little? Is it not linking correctly to the membrane? But we do know for the first time that we've got a whole set of players here that we've previously overlooked.
Schmalfeldt: Brain cells communicate with each other by secreting messengers, such as serotonin, which bind to receptors located on the surface of receiving cells. Medications commonly prescribed for depression compensate for a reduction in serotonin signaling by boosting levels and binding of serotonin. Doctor Insel said further study is warranted.
Insel: There will be a lot of interest in this. We don't know yet whether it will be a target for drug development or not. But certainly it's a new target to study to try to begin to understand something new about depression.
Schmalfeldt: You can read more about the findings on the website www.nimh.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Thomas Insel