Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) is a schizophrenia candidate gene whose protein product is involved in neuronal migration, survival, and synaptic plasticity via production of specific isoforms. Importantly, NRG1 type III (NRG1 III) mRNA is increased in humans inheriting a schizophrenia risk haplotype for the NRG1 gene (HapICE), and NRG1 protein levels can be elevated in schizophrenia. The nature by which NRG1 type III overexpression results in schizophrenia-like behavior and brain pathology remains unclear, therefore we constructed a transgenic mouse with Nrg1 III overexpression in forebrain neurons (CamKII kinase+). Here, we demonstrate construct validity for this mouse model, as juvenile and adult Nrg1 III transgenic mice exhibit an overexpression of Nrg1 III mRNA and Nrg1 protein in multiple brain regions. Furthermore, Nrg1 III transgenic mice have face validity as they exhibit schizophrenia-relevant behavioral phenotypes including deficits in social preference, impaired fear-associated memory, and reduced prepulse inhibition. Additionally, microarray assay of hippocampal mRNA uncovered transcriptional alterations downstream of Nrg1 III overexpression, including changes in serotonin receptor 2C and angiotensin-converting enzyme. Transgenic mice did not exhibit other schizophrenia-relevant behaviors including hyperactivity, social withdrawal, or an increased vulnerability to the effects of MK-801 malate. Our results indicate that this novel Nrg1 III mouse is valid for modeling potential pathological mechanisms of some schizophrenia-like behaviors, for determining what other neurobiological changes may be downstream of elevated NRG1 III levels and for preclinically testing therapeutic strategies that may be specifically efficacious in patients with the NRG1 (HapICE) risk genotype.

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