Rasd2 Modulates Prefronto-Striatal Phenotypes in Humans and 'Schizophrenia-Like Behaviors' in Mice

Daniela Vitucci, Annabella Di Giorgio, Francesco Napolitano, Barbara Pelosi, Giuseppe Blasi, Francesco Errico, Maria Teresa Attrotto, Barbara Gelao, Leonardo Fazio, Paolo Taurisano, Anna Di Maio, Valentina Marsili, Massimo Pasqualetti, Alessandro Bertolino, Alessandro Usiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rasd2 is a thyroid hormone target gene, which encodes for a GTP-binding protein enriched in the striatum where, among other functions, it modulates dopaminergic neurotransmission. Here we report that human RASD2 mRNA is abundant in putamen, but it also occurs in the cerebral cortex, with a distinctive expression pattern that differs from that present in rodents. Consistent with its localization, we found that a genetic variation in RASD2 (rs6518956) affects postmortem prefrontal mRNA expression in healthy humans and is associated with phenotypes of relevance to schizophrenia, including prefrontal and striatal grey matter volume and physiology during working memory, as measured with magnetic resonance imaging. Interestingly, quantitative real-time PCR analysis indicated that RASD2 mRNA is slightly reduced in postmortem prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia. In the attempt to uncover the neurobiological substrates associated with Rasd2 activity, we used knockout mice to analyze the in vivo influence of this G-protein on the prepulse inhibition of the startle response and psychotomimetic drug-related behavioral response. Data showed that Rasd2 mutants display deficits in basal prepulse inhibition that, in turn, exacerbate gating disruption under psychotomimetic drug challenge. Furthermore, we documented that lack of Rasd2 strikingly enhances the behavioral sensitivity to motor stimulation elicited by amphetamine and phencyclidine. Based on animal model data, along with the finding that RASD2 influences prefronto-striatal phenotypes in healthy humans, we suggest that genetic mutation or reduced levels of this G-protein might have a role in cerebral circuitry dysfunction underpinning exaggerated psychotomimetic drugs responses and development of specific biological phenotypes linked to schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)916-927
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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