Dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein of molecular weight 32 kDa (DARPP-32) integrates dopaminergic signaling into that of several other neurotransmitters. Calcineurin (CaN), located downstream of dopaminergic pathways, inactivates DARPP-32 by dephosphorylation. Despite several studies have examined their expression levels of gene and protein in postmortem patients’ brains, they rendered inconsistent results. In this study, protein expression levels of DARPP-32 and CaN were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and nucleus accumbens (NAc) of 49 postmortem samples from subjects with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and normal controls. We also examined the association between this expression and genetic variants of 8 dopaminergic system-associated molecules for 55 SNPs in the same postmortem samples. In the PFC of patients with schizophrenia, levels of DARPP-32 were significantly decreased, while those of CaN tended to increase. In the NAc, both of DARPP-32 and CaN showed no significant alternations in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Further analysis of the correlation of DARPP-32 and CaN expressions, we found that positive correlations in controls and schizophrenia in PFC, and schizophrenia in NAc. In PFC, the expression ratio of DARPP-32/CaN were significantly lower in schizophrenia than controls. We also found that several of the aforementioned SNPs may predict protein expression, one of which was confirmed in a second independent sample set. This differential expression of DARPP-32 and CaN may reflect potential molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, or differences between these two major psychiatric diseases.
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