The disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) gene has been linked to schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses in multiple pedigrees. This article will review the neurobiology of DISC1 in normal developing and adult brain and the putative role of the mutant form in major mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. The initial genetic finding of an association between DISC1 and schizophrenia in a Scottish population has now been replicated in Finnish, American, Japanese, and Taiwanese populations. DISC1 is present throughout the brain of a variety of species during development and adulthood, including many of the brain regions known to be abnormal in schizophrenia, such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and thalamus. The functions of DISC1 in the developing brain include neuronal migration, neurite outgrowth, and neurite extension. In the adult, DISC1 has been identified in multiple populations of neurons and in structures associated with synaptic function, suggesting that one of its adult functions may be synaptic plasticity. DISC1 is associated with numerous cognitive functions that are abnormal in schizophrenia. Converging evidence from cell culture, mice mutants, postmortem brain, and genetics implicates mutant DISC1 in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
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