Deficits in sensorimotor gating and tests of social behavior in a genetic model of reduced NMDA receptor function

Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 31;153(2):507-19. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2004.01.008.


Reduced NMDA receptor function is hypothesized to contribute to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In order to model chronic and developmental NMDA receptor hypofunction, a mouse line was developed that expresses low levels of the NMDA R1 subunit (NR1) of the NMDA receptor. The present study tested the hypothesis that these NR1 hypomorphic mice would exhibit deficits in sensorimotor and conspecific interactions, analogous to deficits observed in schizophrenic patients. F1 hybrid mice homozygous for the NR1 hypomorphic mutation (NR1 -/-) were generated by crossing heterozygous mice (NR1 +/-) from C57BL/6 and 129 Sv/Ev backgrounds. To assess sensorimotor gating, mice were tested in the paradigm of prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle. The NR1 hypomorphic mice exhibited increased acoustic startle responses and also showed deficits in prepulse inhibition. Startle responses were differentially altered by predator odor exposure in the male NR1 -/- mice, in comparison to control mice. In a test of social affiliation, the wild type mice spent significantly more time investigating a novel mouse in comparison to the NR1 -/- mice. In a resident-intruder test, marked deficits were found in sex-specific aggressive behavior between the wild type and mutant mice. These data support the contention that the NR1 hypomorphic mice exhibit alterations in sensorimotor gating and typical conspecific interactions, reminiscent of behavioral disturbances associated with schizophrenia. The NR1 hypomorphic mice could represent a model system to explore novel treatment and preventative strategies for certain symptoms of schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arousal / genetics
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Neurologic Mutants
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Motivation
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Neural Inhibition / genetics
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Reflex, Startle / genetics*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*


  • NMDA receptor A1
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate