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OBJECTIVE: Aberrant synaptic connectivity may underlie the involvement of the hippocampus in schizophrenia. There is reasonable neuropathological evidence for a presynaptic pathology but few studies of the postsynaptic component. This study tested the hypothesis that hippocampal dendritic pathology is also present in schizophrenia. METHOD: Using in situ hybridization in sections of hippocampal formation from 10 patients with schizophrenia, 10 patients with mood disorders (three with bipolar disorder and seven with major depression), and 10 healthy comparison subjects, the authors examined the expression of two important dendritic genes: spinophilin, which serves as a marker of dendritic spines, and microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), an overall dendritic marker. RESULTS: The patients with schizophrenia had lower levels of spinophilin mRNA in CA4 (hilus), CA3, the subiculum, and the entorhinal cortex than did the normal comparison subjects. The mood disorder group showed similar differences from the comparison group. MAP2 and cyclophilin mRNA did not differ between the groups in any subfield. CONCLUSIONS: Decreased spinophilin but unchanged MAP2 expression provides molecular evidence for a hippocampal dendritic pathology in schizophrenia that preferentially affects the spines. As spines are the target of most glutamatergic synapses, the data extend the evidence that excitatory synapses are particularly affected. Similar dendritic spine pathology may also occur in mood disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Psychiatry

Publication Date





1848 - 1855


Adult, Aged, Autoradiography, Cohort Studies, Cyclophilins, Dendrites, Female, Gene Expression, Genetic Markers, Hippocampus, Histocytochemistry, Humans, In Situ Hybridization, Male, Microfilament Proteins, Microtubule-Associated Proteins, Middle Aged, Mood Disorders, Nerve Tissue Proteins, RNA, Messenger, Schizophrenia, Synapses