Schizophrenia is a common yet mysterious disease. It is thought to be caused by impaired brain development
with a strong genetic basis. It is likely that altered proteins in the schizophrenic brain change the patterns of nervous transmission, resulting in bizarre thought processes characteristic of the disease.
Dr. Lin Mei and his team of researchers at the Medical
College of Georgia have identified proteins that are important for keeping a balance between excitation and inhibition of brain cells. In particular, mutations or polymorphisms of the gene neuregulin-1 and its receptor ErbB4 are associated with schizophrenia by genome analyses. The proteins
they encode have been found to regulate neuronal excitability because they influence the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
On Thursday, May 15, at noon in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10, Mei will be honored for his work on these and other disease-related genes by receiving the 2008 Mathilde Solowey Award in the Neurosciences and delivering a lecture titled, “Neuregulin-1 Signaling and Schizophrenia.”
Mei will describe how his research team showed that neuregulin-1 suppresses excitation at excitatory synapses, which are communication points between neurons
where the neurotransmitter glutamate excites cells to action. The collective findings reveal a check and balance for brain cell activity managed by neuregulin-
1 in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the site of complex reasoning and selection of appropriate social behavior. The findings also provide new treatment targets for psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
Mei is a professor in the department of neurology and chief of the program of developmental neurobiology, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at MCG. He has received awards from his university and from his home country, China. This year he received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award.
After graduating from medical school in China, he received his Ph.D. in pharmacology
and toxicology from the University of Arizona with Henry Yamamura and William Roeske. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Richard Huganir at Johns Hopkins University before he moved first to the University of Virginia, then to the University of Alabama and finally to MCG. He has published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, FASEB Journal, Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron and Nature Neuroscience.