Shameless Self Promotion: OLIG2 is a schizophrenia susceptibility gene

OK, so I am not actually on this paper, but my boss is. It is also what I am doing my thesis on, so I thought I might mention it.

The article is entitled "Convergent evidence that oligodendrocyte lineage transcription factor 2 (OLIG2) and interacting genes influence susceptibility to schizophrenia" and was published in the August 4th issue of PNAS.

For many years all the work on schizophrenia focused on the dopamine system -- I think this is largely because dopamine-affecting drugs are used to treat it. There was also a great deal of interest in other transmitters such as glutamate, in part because glutamate-blocking drugs such as PCP cause psychosis. At the very least, most of the research has focused on what might be going wrong in the neurons in schizophrenic's brains.

At Mount Sinai we have taken a slightly different tack. Focusing on some microarray data that shows a downregulation of myelin-associated genes in schizophrenia, many researchers here have tried to figure out what is wrong with the oligodendrocytes in schizophrenia. At some point, I will write a summary of all that data, but I don't have time to right now. There are a variety of reviews on the subject, but this one is my favorite.

This data is in that vein. OLIG2 is an oligodendrocyte specific transcription factor. This paper shows that OLIG2 is a schizophrenia susceptibility gene.

From the point of view of a neuron-centered explanation, there is really no reason for this to be the case, so I think it is really good evidence that oligodendrocytes have at least something to do with schizophrenia. The reality is probably much more complicated. There are a lot of bilateral interactions between oligodendrocytes and neurons both developmentally and functionally. With respect to the etiology of the disease, this probably means that both play a role.

Here is an article in Newsday that summarizes the research.

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I never thought it made any sense to think of neuroglia as mere supporting cells. It seems to me that every type of cell has a variety of active roles. I am sure that many of these remain unknown.

The experience with atypical antipsychotics, starting with clozapine, has shown that dopamine is not the whole story in schizophrenia.