The protein is classified as a transport, binding or carrier protein. Its function is to help the brain cells communicate with each other. This occurs in a part of the brain called the striatum. Also called the striate body, the striatum serves as a sort of communication network within the gray matter of the brain. The communication occurs via the glutamate chemical messenger system. A lack of the protein could be the cause of OCD-type behavior in humans.
In 2007, a study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which wanted to discover more about the functionality of the SAPAP3 gene that produces the protein. They bred a group of laboratory mice without the gene, and after approximately four months, the mice exhibited anxiety and obsessive traits commonly found in humans with OCD. The mice compulsively groomed themselves, which led to missing patches of fur on their heads. They also showed signs of unnecessary fear when confronted with social situations, such as entering or exiting inappropriately. When the mice were reintroduced to the gene, the compulsive behaviors and afflictions subsided significantly.
According to Guoping Feng, Ph.D., and his team, the findings suggest that the obsessive behavior might stem from the striatum, which serves as a pivotal link between the cortex and the emotional hubs. They are now exploring how SAPAP3 works on a molecular level and how it could apply to the future in terms of drugs that help with OCD afflictions. In 2009, more studies were conducted by Feng's team showing some of the same results, which they found were reversible with fluoxetine.
Increased levels of SAPAP3 proteins within people diagnosed with the OCD complex might reduce their symptoms.
Sources of Sapap3
A full description of SAPAP3 is available online. designed for scientists and health care professionals. There are samples of the antibody available for further studies. They are derived from rabbits, and there are no claims as to function or the treatment of OCD.
SAPAP3 is not a protein itself, but rather a gene that produces a protein found in the brains of both humans and other animals, such as mice and rabbits. Recently, studies have been conducted about the relevance of this protein to humans with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).