Lipid Signaling in Brain Linked to Mental Disorders

by Ella

Summary: Increased levels of bioactive lipids in the brain are linked to mental disorders by disrupting excitatory transmission between brain cells. Researchers found that using an inhibitor to block these lipids can restore balance and potentially treat these conditions. The study highlights a new pathway for diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.


Key Facts:

Bioactive lipids in the brain affect excitatory transmission, promoting mental disorders.


An enzyme called autotaxin activates these lipids, which can be inhibited to restore balance.


The findings open up new possibilities for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.


Source: University of Cologne

Increased levels of bioactive lipids produced naturally in the body can disrupt excitatory transmission between brain cells, leading to mental disorders. However, this imbalance can be corrected using an inhibitor that prevents the activation of these lipids, according to recent research from the University of Cologne.

The study, titled “Altered cortical synaptic lipid signaling leads to intermediate phenotypes of mental disorders,” was published in Molecular Psychiatry. It reveals that brain lipid signaling can be a significant factor in mental disorders and offers new treatment avenues.

Study Details:

Researchers: The teams led by Johannes Vogt, MD (University of Cologne), Robert Nitsch, MD, PhD (University of Münster), and other collaborators.

Focus: The role of the enzyme autotaxin and its antagonist protein PRG-1 in regulating excitation and inhibition balance in the brain.

Methodology: The study analyzed the effects of altered lipid signaling on brain function in humans and mice, utilizing brain wave measurements, brain activity assessments, and psychological tests.


Excitation and Inhibition: Balance between excitation (nerve cell activation) and inhibition (interruption of signal transfer) is crucial for normal brain function.

Autotaxin’s Role: Autotaxin activates bioactive lipids that stimulate nerve cell activity at the cortical synapse, affecting information processing in brain networks.

Experimental Results: Blocking autotaxin reduced lipid activation at the synapse, resulting in changes in brain activity and psychological tests that mirrored those in mental disorder patients and their healthy relatives.

Mouse Model: Mice with similar genetic disorders exhibited symptoms such as increased anxiety, depression, and lower stress resilience, similar to the patterns observed in human subjects.


Mental Disorders: The regulation of synaptic lipid signals by autotaxin plays a critical role in mental disorder development.

Treatment Potential: Specific inhibitors of autotaxin can restore balance in brain networks, offering a new therapeutic strategy for mental disorders.

Future Research: Further studies will explore the effectiveness and safety of these inhibitors in clinical trials.


The study underscores the importance of lipid signaling in the brain and its potential as a target for treating mental disorders. As Professor Vogt notes, “Targeted modulation of synaptic lipid signals using autotaxin inhibitors that can reach the brain could open up possibilities to treat mental disorders.” Future research will aim to validate these findings and assess their clinical applications.


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