Abnormal behavior after intracerebral injection of polypeptides from wheat gliadin: Possible relevance to schizophrenia

  • F. C. Dohan
  • D. R. Levitt
  • L. D. Kushnir


Accumulating evidence suggests that: (1) gluten-like proteins in cereal grains may produce psychiatric symptoms in schizophrenics as well as in celiac patients; (2) the genotypes for these two disorders may have one or more but not all, genes in common. Gluten fed to treated schizophrenics on a cereal grain-free, milk-free diet exacerbates their symptoms; ingestion of polypeptides resulting from peptic-pancreatic digestion of wheat gliadin (from gluten) produces psychiatric and other symptoms in celiac patients. To test their effect on behavior of normal rats we bypassed the protective barrier systems by intracerebral injection of a potent subfraction of gliadin polypeptides which produces psychiatric symptoms in celiacs. Eighteen exploratory experiments in 4 rats demonstrated that intracerebral injection of these polypeptides may variably produce stereotyped movements, prolonged “chewing in air,” “catelepsy” and seizures, all after an unusually long latent period. The lowest dose producing “catalepsy” was 600 μg, and that for seizures was 500 μg. Since we used a mixture, one or more polypeptides in it may be considerably more potent. The accumulated evidence suggests the following working hypothesis: One or more of the polypeptides produced by peptic-pancreatic digestion of certain glutamine-proline rich food proteins(e.g., cereal grain glutens) are psychotoxic and may enter the brain of the schizophrenic or celiac because the small gut, and possibly other, barrier systems (enzymatic, immunologic, membranous, other) suffer defects of an unknown nature due to one or more abnormal genes common to both diseases; and that the differences in the two diseases are determined largely by the dissimilar components of the genotypes.


Celiac Disease Abnormal Behavior Wheat Gluten Intracerebral Injection Celiac Patient 
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Copyright information

© Springer 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. C. Dohan
    • 1
  • D. R. Levitt
    • 1
  • L. D. Kushnir
    • 1
  1. 1.Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric InstitutePhiladelphia

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