The panic gene

时间:2019-03-08 07:16:18166网络整理admin

By Jonathan Knight MEN who suffer panic attacks may owe their disorder to the same gene mutation that turns the red eyes of a fruit fly white. Fruit flies with white eyes have a defect in the white gene, which makes a protein that transports the amino acid tryptophan into the cells that make red eye pigments. Tryptophan is important to humans as well. We use it to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Mood disorders are known to be linked to the region of chromosome 21 where white is located. So a team led by Akira Sano of Ehime University in Japan sequenced the white gene of 129 patients with mood or panic disorders as well as that of 130 healthy controls. They found that 75 per cent of the male patients had at least one copy of white in which a guanine base had been replaced by an adenine base. Only 50 per cent of male controls had a copy of this version (Molecular Psychiatry, vol 4, p 155). Sano’s study did not reveal any link between female mood disorders and white. “This suggests there are different ways of causing panic disorders in females than in males,” says Sano. He thinks it is important to find out whether the adenine version of white hinders the transport of tryptophan in people. If so, tryptophan supplements might be used to treat men susceptible to panic attacks. The link between the white gene and panic disorders seems reasonable, says Leena Peltonen, a geneticist at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The idea has been around,” she says,