Combination of a gene and stress increases risk for disorder

Neurobiologist Jan Deussing develops together with his team at the MPI mouse models in order to learn more about molecular mechanisms relevant for this kind of interaction. Elisabeth Binder, neuroscientist and physician, investigates together with her research group the interaction between genes and the environment in humans. The scientists brought together their basic and translational research skills for this study which is now published in the well-known magazine Molecular Psychiatry.

They used the so called CACNA1C gene, which seems to be connected to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and to a lesser extent, major depressive disorder and autism. First, the researchers developed a mouse model where the mice are born without the CACNA1C gene. They found these mice have many features that are often seen in psychiatric disorders, like cognitive decline, reduced sociability, hyperactivity and increased anxiety. In addition, the animals were more susceptible to stress. Interestingly, when the scientists deleted the same gene in adult mice, they found the opposite happened.

The research group of institute´s director Binder then looked at humans and found that CACNA1C significantly interacts with adverse life events to alter the risk of developing symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

“This study shows the impact of the interaction of genes and the environment for our understanding of psychiatric disorders”, thinks head of physician and head of the clinic of MPI Martin Keck.

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