ErbB4 Null Mice Display Altered Mesocorticolimbic and Nigrostriatal Dopamine Levels as well as Deficits in Cognitive and Motivational Behaviors

Miguel Skirzewski, Marie E. Cronin, Ricardo Murphy, Wambura Fobbs, Alexxai V. Kravitz and Andres Buonanno. eNeuro, Volume 7, Issue 3, 1 May 2020 Read More


Natural genetic variants of Neuregulin1 (NRG1) and its cognate receptor ErbB4 are associated with a risk for schizophrenia. Whereas most studies on NRG1-ErbB4 signaling have focused on GABAergic interneurons, ErbB4 is also expressed by midbrain dopaminergic neurons where it modulates extracellular dopamine (DA) levels. Here, we report that extracellular steady-state levels of DA are reduced in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC; -65%), hippocampus (-53%) and nucleus accumbens (NAc; -35%), but are elevated in the dorsal striatum (+25%) of ErbB4 knock-out mice (ErbB4 KOs) relative to wild-type controls. This pattern of DA imbalance recapitulates the reported prefrontal cortical reduction and striatal increase of DA levels in schizophrenia patients. Next, we report on a battery of behavioral tasks used to evaluate locomotor, cognitive and motivational behaviors in ErbB4 KOs relative to controls. We found that ErbB4 KOs are hyperactive in a novel open field but not in their familiar home cage, are more sensitive to amphetamine, perform poorly in the T-maze and novel object recognition (NOR) tasks, exhibit reduced spatial learning and memory on the Barnes maze, and perform markedly worse in conditioned place preference (CPP) tasks when associating cued-reward palatable food with location. However, we found that the poor performance of ErbB4 KOs in CPP are likely due to deficits in spatial memory, instead of reward seeking, as ErbB4 KOs are more motivated to work for palatable food rewards. Our findings indicate that ErbB4 signaling affects tonic DA levels and modulates a wide array of behavioral deficits relevant to psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Copyright © 2020 Skirzewski et al.

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Posted on June 1, 2020
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