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Okusaga, Olaoluwa; Muravitskaja, Olesja; Fuchs, Dietmar; Ashraf, Ayesha; Hinman, Sarah; Giegling, Ina; Hartmann, Annette M.; Konte, Bettina; Friedl, Marion; Schiffman, Jason; Hong, Elliot; Reeves, Gloria; Groer, Maureen; Dantzer, Robert; Rujescu, Dan; Postolache, Teodor T. (2014): Elevated Levels of Plasma Phenylalanine in Schizophrenia: A Guanosine Triphosphate Cyclohydrolase-1 Metabolic Pathway Abnormality?
In: PLOS ONE 9(1), e85945


Background: Phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursor amino acids required for the synthesis of dopamine, the main neurotransmitter implicated in the neurobiology of schizophrenia. Inflammation, increasingly implicated in schizophrenia, can impair the function of the enzyme Phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH;which catalyzes the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine) and thus lead to elevated phenylalanine levels and reduced tyrosine levels. This study aimed to compare phenylalanine, tyrosine, and their ratio (a proxy for PAH function) in a relatively large sample of schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. Methods: We measured non-fasting plasma phenylalanine and tyrosine in 950 schizophrenia patients and 1000 healthy controls. We carried out multivariate analyses to compare log transformed phenylalanine, tyrosine, and phenylalanine: tyrosine ratio between patients and controls. Results: Compared to controls, schizophrenia patients had higher phenylalanine (p < 0.0001) and phenylalanine: tyrosine ratio (p < 0.0001) but tyrosine did not differ between the two groups (p = 0.596). Conclusions: Elevated phenylalanine and phenylalanine: tyrosine ratio in the blood of schizophrenia patients have to be replicated in longitudinal studies. The results may relate to an abnormal PAH function in schizophrenia that could become a target for novel preventative and interventional approaches.