Disturbed cortical γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmission in schizophrenia is evident from lamina- and cell type- specific alterations in presynaptic markers. In the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), these alterations include lower transcript expression of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD67) and somatostatin (SST), a neuropeptide expressed in the Martinotti subpopulation of GABA neurons whose axons innervate the distal apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons. However, whether the alterations in SST-containing interneurons are associated with changes in post-synaptic receptors for SST has not been examined. Thus, we used in situ hybridization to quantify the mRNA expression levels of SST receptors subtype 1 (SSTR1) and subtype 2 (SSTR2) in DLPFC area 9 from 23 matched pairs of subjects with schizophrenia and normal comparison subjects. We also assessed the effects of potential confounding variables within the human subjects and in brain specimens from macaque monkeys with long term exposure to antipsychotic drugs. SSTR1 mRNA levels did not differ between subject groups. In contrast, mean cortical SSTR2 mRNA levels were significantly 19% lower in the subjects with schizophrenia. Laminar and cellular level analyses revealed that lower SSTR2 mRNA levels were localized to pyramidal cells in cortical layers 5–6. Expression of SSTR2 mRNA did not differ between monkeys exposed chronically to high doses of haloperidol or olanzapine and control animals, or between subjects with schizophrenia on or off antipsychotic medications at the time of death. However, levels of SSTR2 mRNA were significantly 37.6% lower in monkeys exposed chronically to low dose haloperidol, suggesting that the lower levels of SSTR2 mRNA selectively in pyramidal neurons in DLPFC layers 5–6 in schizophrenia should be interpreted with caution. In concert with prior findings of lower SST mRNA expression in the same subjects, the results of this study suggest the convergence of pre- and post-synaptic mechanisms to reduce inhibitory inputs to pyramidal neurons in the infragranular layers of the DLPFC.
This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Schizophrenia’.Highlights
▸ Prefrontal somatostatin receptor 2 (SSTR2) mRNA is lower in schizophrenia subjects. ▸ The SSTR2 mRNA deficit is principally in pyramidal neurons in layers 5–6. ▸ In contrast, STTR1 mRNA expression is not altered.