Introduction: Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) is one of susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and plays critical roles in glutamatergic, dopaminergic and GABAergic signaling. Using mutant mice heterozygous for Nrg1 (Nrg1(+/-)) we studied the effects of Nrg1 signaling on behavioral and electrophysiological measures relevant to schizophrenia.
Experimental procedure: Behavior of Nrg1(+/-) mice and their wild type littermates was evaluated using pre-pulse inhibition, contextual fear conditioning, novel object recognition, locomotor, and social choice paradigms. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to assess auditory gating and novel stimulus detection.
Results: Gating of ERPs was unaffected in Nrg1(+/-) mice, but mismatch negativity in response to novel stimuli was attenuated. The Nrg1(+/-) mice exhibited behavioral deficits in contextual fear conditioning and social interactions, while locomotor activity, pre-pulse inhibition and novel object recognition were not impaired.
Summary: Nrg1(+/-) mice had impairments in a subset of behavioral and electrophysiological tasks relevant to the negative/cognitive symptom domains of schizophrenia that are thought to be influenced by glutamatergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission. These mice are a valuable tool for studying endophenotypes of schizophrenia, but highlight that single genes cannot account for the complex pathophysiology of the disorder.