A gene found only in men is key to regulating the brain's production of dopamine, a new study shows. The finding offers a clue to why men are more likely than women to develop dopamine-related illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, and addiction. Together with another new study, the work suggests that women and men have distinctive dopamine-regulating systems.
The gene, called Sry, is found on the Y chromosome and is therefore exclusive to men. Sry determines gender, signaling an embryo's gonads to develop into testes rather than ovaries.
Unexpectedly, the gene also performs a function not related to sex, says geneticist Eric Vilain of the University of California, Los Angeles. The researchers found that Sry makes a protein that controls concentrations of dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in a central brain region called the substantia nigra. Dopamine carries signals from the brain to the body that control movement and coord