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Dopamine receptor genes found, cloned.

Dopamine receptor genes found, cloned

Scientists have plucked from human cells two genes that guide production of molecular switches important in schizophrenia and Parkinsonhs disease. With the genes in hand, the researchers have grown cultured cells engineered to contain the switches, which respond to a chemical messenger called dopamine. The feat promises to simplify studies of the switches' functions and speed development of new drugs.

For years, neuroscientists and psychologists have been frustrated by their lack of tools to investigate dopamine, a neurochemical intimately involved in such diverse functions as motor coordination and the experience of pleasure. Dopamine shortages in certain brain regions cause Parkinson's disease, but nobody knows why these shortages occur. And while some schizophrenia drugs tweak the dopamine system, scientists still don't know why these drugs help.

In 1988, researchers isolated and inserted into cultured cells the gene for a cell-surface receptor called D2, which responds to dopamine by inhibiting certain chemical reactions inside cells. Now, in the Sept. 6 NATURE, three separate research teams say they've cloned a related protein, D1, that responds to dopamine by stimulating, rather than inhibiting, those same cellular reactions. The teams were led by Allen Dearry at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., Olivier Civelli of the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, and Brian F. O'Dowd of the University of Toronto.

And in the Sept. 13 NATURE, Pierre Sokoloff and his colleagues at INSERM in Paris, France, report cloning a third, previously unrecognized dopamine receptor gene, which they call D3.

Researchers say experiments on cultured cells bearing the newly cloned genes could simplify laboratory investigations of the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson's and schizophrenia. They add that cultured cells engineered to bear both stimulatory and inhibitory dopamine receptors could provide new insights into dopamine regulation and aid in the development of new drugs to alter dopamine's activity.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 15, 1990
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