Increased protein insolubility in brains from a subset of patients with schizophrenia

Leslie G. Nucifora, Matthew L. MacDonald, Brian J. Lee, Matthew E. Peters, Alexis L. Norris, Benjamin C. Orsburn, Kun Yang, Kelly Gleason, Russell L. Margolis, Jonathan Pevsner, Carol A. Tamminga, Robert A. Sweet, Christopher A. Ross, Akira Sawa, Frederick C. Nucifora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: The mechanisms leading to schizophrenia are likely to be diverse. However, there may be common pathophysiological pathways for subtypes of the disease. The authors tested the hypothesis that increased protein insolubility and ubiquitination underlie the pathophysiology for a subtype of schizophrenia. Methods: Prefrontal cortex and superior temporal gyrus from postmortem brains of individuals with and without schizophrenia were subjected to cold sarkosyl fractionation, separating proteins into soluble and insoluble fractions. Protein insolubility and ubiquitin levels were quantified for each insoluble fraction, with normalization to total homogenate protein. Mass spectrometry analysis was then performed to identify the protein contents of the insoluble fractions. The potential biological relevance of the detected proteins was assessed using Gene Ontology enrichment analysis and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. Results: A subset of the schizophrenia brains showed an increase in protein insolubility and ubiquitination in the insoluble fraction. Mass spectrometry of the insoluble fraction revealed that brains with increased insolubility and ubiquitination exhibited a similar peptide expression by principal component analysis. The proteins that were significantly altered in the insoluble fraction were enriched for pathways relating to axon target recognition as well as nervous system development and function. Conclusions: This study suggests a pathological process related to protein insolubility for a subset of patients with schizophrenia. Determining the molecular mechanism of this subtype of schizophrenia could lead to a better understanding of the pathways underlying the clinical phenotype in some patients with major mental illness as well as to improved nosology and identification of novel therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)730-743
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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