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Start-Up grant "Common molecular causes of schizophrenia and autism related to lipid metabolism"

December 16, 2014 - Jun.-Prof. Giulia Rossetti has been awarded an RWTH Start-Up grant with the proposal "Common molecular causes of schizophrenia and autism related to lipid metabolism" within the Excellence Initiative framework.

Disturbances of lipid metabolism have been implicated in several psychiatric illnesses. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) indeed play a significant role in brain growth and development, synapse and memory formation, and cognitive function development. PUFA are extremely lipophilic molecules, therefore their intracellular trafficking occurs trough chaperone proteins called fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs). Only three of the ten human FABPs identified to date (FABP3, FABP5, FABP7) are expressed in the brain. Emerging evidence show that variants of these FABP genes encoding proteins may be responsible for the pathogenesis of both schizophrenia and autism disorder and therefore may represent a common molecular cause of both these psychiatric illness. These variants are suggested to modify FABPs affinity for PUFAs, therefore affecting their uptake in the brain. The aim of the research is to establish, by using computational tools, the effect of the identified missense mutants on structure, binding properties and function of FABP3, FABP5 and FABP7 proteins. This will be crucial to elucidate common molecular causes of schizophrenia and autism related to lipid metabolism. Such knowledge may be used for improved therapeutic treatment of autism and schizophrenia in a long‐lasting research focus.


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