Copy number variants are deletions and duplications of a few thousand to million base pairs and are associated with extraordinarily high levels of autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, intellectual disability, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The unprecedented levels of robust and reproducible penetrance of copy number variants make them one of the most promising and reliable entry points to delve into the mechanistic bases of many mental disorders. However, the precise mechanistic bases of these associations still remain elusive in humans due to the many genes encoded in each copy number variant and the diverse associated phenotypic features. Genetically engineered mice have provided a technical means to ascertain precise genetic mechanisms of association between copy number variants and dimensional aspects of mental illnesses. Molecular, cellular, and neuronal phenotypes can be detected as potential mechanistic substrates for various behavioral constructs of mental illnesses. However, mouse models come with many technical pitfalls. Genetic background is not well controlled in many mouse models, leading to rather obvious interpretative issues. Dose alterations of many copy number variants and single genes within copy number variants result in some molecular, cellular, and neuronal phenotypes without a behavioral phenotype or with a behavioral phenotype opposite to what is seen in humans. In this review, I discuss technical and interpretative pitfalls of mouse models of copy number variants and highlight well-controlled studies to suggest potential neuronal mechanisms of dimensional aspects of mental illnesses. Mouse models of copy number variants represent toeholds to achieve a better understanding of the mechanistic bases of dimensions of neuropsychiatric disorders and thus for development of mechanism-based therapeutic options in humans.
Keywords: Research Domain Criteria (RDoC); attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; autism spectrum disorder; copy number variants; intellectual disability; schizophrenia.
© 2018 The Authors. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences © 2018 Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology.