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Altered motor activity, exploration and anxiety in heterozygous neuregulin 1 mutant mice: implications for understanding schizophrenia


Human genetic studies have shown that neuregulin 1 (NRG1) is a potential susceptibility gene for schizophrenia. Nrg1 influences various neurodevelopmental processes, which are potentially related to schizophrenia. The neurodevelopmental theory of schizophrenia suggests that interactions between genetic and environmental factors are responsible for biochemical alterations leading to schizophrenia. To investigate these interactions and to match experimental design with the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, we applied a comprehensive behavioural phenotyping strategy for motor activity, exploration and anxiety in a heterozygous Nrg1 transmembrane domain mutant mouse model (Nrg1 HET) using different housing conditions and age groups. We observed a locomotion- and exploration-related hyperactive phenotype in Nrg1 HETs. Increased age had a locomotion- and exploration-inhibiting effect, which was significantly attenuated in mutant mice. Environmental enrichment (EE) had a stimulating influence on locomotion and exploration. The impact of EE was more pronounced in Nrg1 hypomorphs. Our study also showed a moderate task-specific anxiolytic-like phenotype for Nrg1 HETs, which was influenced by external factors. The behavioural phenotype detected in heterozygous Nrg1 mutant mice is not specific to schizophrenia per se, but the increased sensitivity of mutant mice to exogenous factors is consistent with the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and the neurodevelopmental theory. Our findings reinforce the importance of carefully controlling experimental designs for external factors and of comprehensive, integrative phenotyping strategies. Thus, Nrg1 HETs may, in combination with other genetic and drug models, help to clarify pathophysiological mechanisms behind schizophrenia.

Type Journal
ISBN 1601-1848 (Print)
Authors Karl, T.;Duffy, L.;Scimone, A.;Harvey, R. P.;Schofield, P. R. :
Published Date 2007-01-01
Published Volume 6
Published Issue 7
Published Pages 677-87
Status Published in-print
URL link to publisher's version
OpenAccess link to author's accepted manuscript version