Numerous genetic linkage and association studies implicate members of the Neuregulin-ErbB receptor (NRG-ErbB) signaling pathway as schizophrenia "at risk" genes. An emphasis of this review is to propose plausible neurobiological mechanisms, regulated by the Neuregulin-ErbB signaling network, that may be altered in schizophrenia and contribute to its etiology. To this end, the distinct neurotransmitter pathways, neuronal subtypes and neural network systems altered in schizophrenia are initially discussed. Next, the review focuses on the possible significance of genetic studies associating NRG1 and ErbB4 with schizophrenia, in light of the functional role of this signaling pathway in regulating glutamatergic, GABAergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission, as well as modulating synaptic plasticity and gamma oscillations. The importance of restricted ErbB4 receptor expression in GABAergic interneurons is emphasized, particularly their expression at glutamatergic synapses of parvalbumin-positive fast-spiking interneurons where modulation of inhibitory drive could account for the dramatic effects of NRG-ErbB signaling on gamma oscillations and pyramidal neuron output. A case is made for reasons that the NRG-ErbB signaling pathway constitutes a "biologically plausible" system for understanding the pathogenic mechanisms that may underlie the complex array of positive, negative and cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia during development.
Published by Elsevier Inc.