SUMMARY MicroRNA-132 (miR-132) has been demonstrated to affect multiple neuronal functions and its dysregulation is linked to several neurological disorders. We previously showed that acute Toxoplasma gondii infection induces miR-132 expression both in vitro and in vivo. To investigate the impact of chronic infection on miR-132, we infected mice with T. gondii PRU strain and performed assessment 5 months later in six brain regions (cortex, hypothalamus, striatum, cerebellum, olfactory bulb and hippocampus) by qPCR. We found that while acute infection of T. gondii increases the expression of miR-132, chronic infection has the opposite effect. The effect varied amongst different regions of the brain and presented in a sex-dependent manner, with females exhibiting more susceptibility than males. MiR-132 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, an inducer of miR-132) were not co-varies in the brain areas of infected mice. T. gondii DNA/RNA was found in all tested brain regions and a selective tropism towards the hippocampus, based on bradyzoite density, was observed in both males and females. However, the expressions of miR-132 or BDNF were poorly reflected by the density of T. gondii in brain areas. Our findings highlight the importance of investigating the miR-132-mediated neuronal function in mice infected with T. gondii.
Chloroviruses (family Phycodnaviridae) are large DNA viruses known to infect certain eukaryotic green algae and have not been previously shown to infect humans or to be part of the human virome. We unexpectedly found sequences homologous to the chlorovirus Acanthocystis turfacea chlorella virus 1 (ATCV-1) in a metagenomic analysis of DNA extracted from human oropharyngeal samples. These samples were obtained by throat swabs of adults without a psychiatric disorder or serious physical illness who were participating in a study that included measures of cognitive functioning. The presence of ATCV-1 DNA was confirmed by quantitative PCR with ATCV-1 DNA being documented in oropharyngeal samples obtained from 40 (43.5%) of 92 individuals. The presence of ATCV-1 DNA was not associated with demographic variables but was associated with a modest but statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed. We further explored the effects of ATCV-1 in a mouse model. The inoculation of ATCV-1 into the intestinal tract of 9-11-wk-old mice resulted in a subsequent decrease in performance in several cognitive domains, including ones involving recognition memory and sensory-motor gating. ATCV-1 exposure in mice also resulted in the altered expression of genes within the hippocampus. These genes comprised pathways related to synaptic plasticity, learning, memory formation, and the immune response to viral exposure.
Disrupted-in-schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) is a promising genetic susceptibility factor for major psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia. We hypothesized that the mutant DISC1 alters the homeostasis of multi-receptor interactions between dopaminergic [dopamine 2/3 (D2/3R)], glutamatergic [metabotropic glutamate 5 (mGluR5)], cannabinoid 1 (CB1R), and nicotinic acetylcholine (?4?2-nAChR) receptors in the brains of mice with inducible forebrain neuronal expression of dominant-negative mutant DISC1.
We developed a protocol to inactivate Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) tachyzoites employing 1 min of ultraviolet (UV) exposure. We show that this treatment completely inhibited parasite replication and cyst formation in vitro and in vivo but did not affect the induction of a robust IgG response in mice. We propose that our protocol can be used to study the contribution of the humoral immune response to rodent behavioral alterations following T. gondii infection.
Neonatal white matter injury (NWMI) is the leading cause of cerebral palsy and other neurocognitive deficits in prematurely-born children, and no restorative therapies exist. Our objective was to determine the fate and effect of glial restricted precursor cell (GRP) transplantation in an ischemic mouse model of NWMI.
The ?7-nicotinic cholinergic receptor (?7-nAChR) is a key mediator of brain communication and has been implicated in a wide variety of central nervous system disorders. None of the currently available PET radioligands for ?7-nAChR are suitable for quantitative PET imaging, mostly because of insufficient specific binding. The goal of this study was to evaluate the potential of (18)F-ASEM ((18)F-JHU82132) as an ?7-nAChR radioligand for PET.
Recent studies have advanced our understanding of the role of the cerebellum in non-motor behaviors. Abnormalities in the cerebellar structure have been demonstrated to produce changes in emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors resembling clinical manifestations observed in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and schizophrenia. Several animal models have been used to evaluate the effects of relevant environmental and genetic risk factors on the cerebellum development and function. However, very few models of ASD and schizophrenia selectively target the cerebellum and/or specific cell types within this structure. In this review, we critically evaluate the strength and weaknesses of these models. We will propose that the future progress in this field will require time- and cell type-specific manipulations of disease-relevant genes, not only selectively in the cerebellum, but also in frontal brain areas connected with the cerebellum. Such information can advance our knowledge of the cerebellar contribution to non-motor behaviors in mental health and disease.
Preterm infants, especially those that are exposed to prenatal intrauterine infection or inflammation, are at a major risk for adverse neurological outcomes, including cognitive, motor and behavioral disabilities. We have previously shown in a mouse model that there is an acute fetal brain insult associated with intrauterine inflammation. The objectives of this study were: (1) to elucidate long-term (into adolescence and adulthood) neurological outcomes by assessing neurobehavioral development, MRI, immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry of cells of immune origin and (2) to determine whether there are any sex-specific differences in brain development associated with intrauterine inflammation. Our results have shown that prenatal exposure appeared to lead to changes in MRI and behavior patterns throughout the neonatal period and during adulthood. Furthermore, we observed chronic brain inflammation in the offspring, with persistence of microglial activation and increased numbers of macrophages in the brain, ultimately resulting in neuronal loss. Moreover, our study highlights the sex-specific differences in long-term sequelae. This study, while extending the growing literature of adverse neurologic outcomes following exposure to inflammation during early development, presents novel findings in the context of intrauterine inflammation.
The glutamatergic hypothesis of schizophrenia suggests that hypoactivity of the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) is an important factor in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and related mental disorders. The environmental neurotoxicant, lead (Pb(2+)), is a potent and selective antagonist of the NMDAR. Recent human studies have suggested an association between prenatal Pb(2+) exposure and the increased likelihood of schizophrenia later in life, possibly via interacting with genetic risk factors. In order to test this hypothesis, we examined the neurobehavioral consequences of interaction between Pb(2+) exposure and mutant disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (mDISC1), a risk factor for major psychiatric disorders. Mutant DISC1 and control mice born by the same dams were raised and maintained on a regular diet or a diet containing moderate levels of Pb(2+). Chronic, lifelong exposure of mDISC1 mice to Pb(2+) was not associated with gross developmental abnormalities but produced sex-dependent hyperactivity, exaggerated responses to the NMDAR antagonist, MK-801, mildly impaired prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle, and enlarged lateral ventricles. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that environmental toxins could contribute to the pathogenesis of mental disease in susceptible individuals.
Gene-environment interactions (GEIs) likely play significant roles in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and underlie differences in pathological, behavioral, and clinical presentations of the disease. Findings from epidemiology and psychiatric genetics have assisted in the generation of animal models of GEI relevant to schizophrenia. These models may provide a foundation for elucidating the molecular, cellular, and circuitry mechanisms that mediate GEI in schizophrenia. Here we critically review current mouse models of GEI related to schizophrenia, describe directions for their improvement, and propose endophenotypes to provide a more tangible basis for molecular studies of pathways of GEI and facilitate the identification of novel therapeutic targets.
Mouse models carrying Disc1 mutations may provide insights into how Disc1 genetic variations contribute to schizophrenia (SZ) susceptibility. Disc1 mutant mice show behavioral and cognitive disturbances reminiscent of SZ. To dissect the synaptic mechanisms underlying these phenotypes, we examined electrophysiological properties of cortical neurons from two mouse models, the first expressing a truncated mouse Disc1 (mDisc1) protein throughout the entire brain, and the second expressing a truncated human Disc1 (hDisc1) protein in forebrain regions. We obtained whole-cell patch clamp recordings to examine how altered expression of Disc1 protein changes excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmissions onto cortical pyramidal neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex in 4-7 month-old mDisc1 and hDisc1 mice. In both mDisc1 and hDisc1 mice, the frequency of spontaneous EPSCs was greater than in wild-type littermate controls. Male mice from both lines were more affected by the Disc1 mutation than were females, exhibiting increases in the ratio of excitatory to inhibitory events. Changes in spontaneous IPSCs were only observed in the mDisc1 model and were sex-specific, with diminished cortical GABAergic neurotransmission, a well-documented characteristic of SZ, occurring only in male mDisc1 mice. In contrast, female mDisc1 mice showed an increase in the frequency of small-amplitude sIPSCs. These findings indicate that truncations of Disc1 alter glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission both commonly and differently in the models and some of the effects are sex-specific, revealing how altered Disc1 expression may contribute to behavioral disruptions and cognitive deficits of SZ.
Contingent negative variation (CNV) topography, hemispheric asymmetry and time-course were investigated in healthy subjects and non-medicated paranoid schizophrenic patients in two antisaccade paradigms with the short (800-1000 ms) and long (1200-1400 ms) durations of the fixation period. EEG and electrooculogram (EOG) were recorded. Saccade characteristics and mean amplitudes of slow cortical potentials time-locked to peripheral target were analyzed in 23 healthy volunteers and 19 schizophrenic patients. Compared to healthy control subjects, schizophrenic patients had significantly slower antisaccades and committed significantly more erroneous saccades in the both antisaccade tasks. The prolongation of the fixation period resulted in noticeable decrease of error percent in patients group. The analysis of CNV time-course has revealed two distinct stages in both groups. The early CNV stage was represented by a negative wave with the maximal amplitude over midline fronto-central area, and the late stage was characterized by increased CNV amplitude at the midline and left parietal electrode sites. In healthy subjects the simultaneous activation of frontal and parietal areas was observed in the paradigm with the shorter fixation interval; the increase of the fixation period produced consecutive activation of these areas. Schizophrenic patients CNV amplitude was generally smaller than that of healthy subjects. The most pronounced between-group differences of the negative shift amplitude were revealed at frontal electrode sites during the early CNV stage in both modifications of the antisaccade task. The deficit of frontal activation revealed in patients at the early stage of antisaccade preparatory set in both antisaccadic paradigms may be related to pathogenesis of paranoid schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a devastating neuropsychiatric disorder of unknown etiology. There is general agreement in the scientific community that schizophrenia is a disorder of neurodevelopmental origin in which both genes and environmental factors come together to produce a schizophrenia phenotype later in life. The challenging questions have been which genes and what environmental factors? Although there is evidence that different chromosome loci and several genes impart susceptibility for schizophrenia; and epidemiological studies point to broad aspects of the environment, only recently there has been an interest in studying gene × environment interactions. Recent evidence of a potential association between prenatal lead (Pb(2+)) exposure and schizophrenia precipitated the search for plausible neurobiological connections. The most promising connection is that in schizophrenia and in developmental Pb(2+) exposure there is strong evidence for hypoactivity of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) subtype of excitatory amino acid receptors as an underlying neurobiological mechanism in both conditions. A hypofunction of the NMDA receptor (NMDAR) complex during critical periods of development may alter neurobiological processes that are essential for brain growth and wiring, synaptic plasticity and cognitive and behavioral outcomes associated with schizophrenia. We also describe on-going proof of concept gene-environment interaction studies of early life Pb(2+) exposure in mice expressing the human mutant form of the disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC-1) gene, a gene that is strongly associated with schizophrenia and allied mental disorders.
HIV-infected individuals, even with antiretroviral therapy, often display cognitive, behavioral and motor abnormalities and have decreased dopamine (DA) levels. Minocycline prevents encephalitis and neurodegeneration in SIV models, suggesting that it might also protect against nigrostriatal dopaminergic system dysfunction. Using an SIV/macaque model of HIV-associated CNS disease, we demonstrated that striatal levels of DA were significantly lower in macaques late in infection and that levels of the metabolite DOPAC also tended to be lower. DA levels declined more than its metabolites, indicating a dysregulation of DA production or catabolism. Minocycline treatment beginning at 12 but not 21 days postinoculation prevented striatal DA loss. DA decline was not due to direct loss of dopaminergic projections to the basal ganglia as there was no difference in tyrosine hydroxylase, dopamine transporter, vesicular monoamine transporter 2 or synaptophysin between minocycline-treated and untreated macaques. SIV-infected macaques had significantly higher monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity than uninfected macaques, although MAO activity was not affected by minocycline. Oxidative/nitrosative stress was examined by nitrotyrosine staining in the deep white matter and was lower in SIV-infected, minocycline-treated macaques compared with untreated macaques. These data suggest that minocycline, which has antioxidant activity, has a protective effect on DA homeostasis when administered at an appropriate time in SIV neuropathogenesis.
Previous studies using in vitro cell culture systems have shown the role of the dynamin-related GTPase Opa1 in apoptosis prevention and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance. However, it remains to be tested whether these functions of Opa1 are physiologically important in vivo in mammals. Here, using the Cre-loxP system, we deleted mouse Opa1 in pancreatic beta cells, in which glucose-stimulated ATP production in mitochondria plays a key role in insulin secretion. Beta cells lacking Opa1 maintained normal copy numbers of mtDNA; however, the amount and activity of electron transport chain complex IV were significantly decreased, leading to impaired glucose-stimulated ATP production and insulin secretion. In addition, in Opa1-null beta cells, cell proliferation was impaired, whereas apoptosis was not promoted. Consequently, mice lacking Opa1 in beta cells develop hyperglycemia. The data suggest that the function of Opa1 in the maintenance of the electron transport chain is physiologically relevant in beta cells.
Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) forms nitric oxide (NO), which functions as a signaling molecule via S-nitrosylation of various proteins and regulation of soluble guanylate cyclase (cGC)/cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway in the central nervous system. nNOS signaling regulates diverse cellular processes during brain development and molecular mechanisms required for higher brain function. Human genetics have identified nNOS and several downstream effectors of nNOS as risk genes for schizophrenia. Besides the disease itself, nNOS has also been associated with prefrontal cortical functioning, including cognition, of which disturbances are a core feature of schizophrenia. Although mice with genetic deletion of nNOS display various behavioral deficits, no studies have investigated prefrontal cortex-associated behaviors. Here, we report that nNOS knockout (KO) mice exhibit hyperactivity and impairments in contextual fear conditioning, results consistent with previous reports. nNOS KO mice also display mild impairments in object recognition memory. Most importantly, we report for the first time working memory deficits, potential impairments in prefrontal cortex mediated cognitive function in nNOS KO mice. Furthermore, we demonstrate Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), another genetic risk factor for schizophrenia that plays roles for cortical development and prefrontal cortex functioning, including working memory, is a novel protein binding partner of nNOS in the developing cerebral cortex. Of note, genetic deletion of nNOS appears to increase the binding of DISC1 to NDEL1, regulating neurite outgrowth as previously reported. These results suggest that nNOS KO mice are useful tools in studying the role of nNOS signaling in cortical development and prefrontal cortical functioning.
Abnormalities in oligodendrocyte (OLG) differentiation and OLG gene expression deficit have been described in schizophrenia (SZ). Recent studies revealed a critical requirement for Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) in neural development. Transgenic mice with forebrain restricted expression of mutant human DISC1 (?hDISC1) are characterized by neuroanatomical and behavioral abnormalities reminiscent of some features of SZ. We sought to determine whether the expression of ?hDISC1 may influence the development of OLGs in this mouse model. OLG- and cell cycle-associated gene and protein expression were characterized in the forebrain of ?hDISC1 mice during different stages of neurodevelopment (E15 and P1 days) and in adulthood. The results suggest that the expression of ?hDISC1 exerts a significant influence on oligodendrocyte differentiation and function, evidenced by premature OLG differentiation and increased proliferation of their progenitors. Additional findings showed that neuregulin 1 and its receptors may be contributing factors to the observed upregulation of OLG genes. Thus, OLG function may be perturbed by mutant hDISC1 in a model system that provides new avenues for studying aspects of the pathogenesis of SZ.
The synaptic insertion or removal of AMPA receptors (AMPAR) plays critical roles in the regulation of synaptic activity reflected in the expression of long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). The cellular events underlying this important process in learning and memory are still being revealed. Here we describe and characterize the AAA+ ATPase Thorase, which regulates the expression of surface AMPAR. In an ATPase-dependent manner Thorase mediates the internalization of AMPAR by disassembling the AMPAR-GRIP1 complex. Following genetic deletion of Thorase, the internalization of AMPAR is substantially reduced, leading to increased amplitudes of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents, enhancement of LTP, and elimination of LTD. These molecular events are expressed as deficits in learning and memory in Thorase null mice. This study identifies an AAA+ ATPase that plays a critical role in regulating the surface expression of AMPAR and thereby regulates synaptic plasticity and learning and memory.
Glutamate receptor interacting protein 1 (GRIP1) is a neuronal scaffolding protein that interacts directly with the C termini of glutamate receptors 2/3 (GluA2/3) via its PDZ domains 4 to 6 (PDZ4-6). We found an association (P<0.05) of a SNP within the PDZ4-6 genomic region with autism by genotyping autistic patients (n=480) and matched controls (n=480). Parallel sequencing identified five rare missense variants within or near PDZ4-6 only in the autism cohort, resulting in a higher cumulative mutation load (P=0.032). Two variants correlated with a more severe deficit in reciprocal social interaction in affected sibling pairs from proband families. These variants were associated with altered interactions with GluA2/3 and faster recycling and increased surface distribution of GluA2 in neurons, suggesting gain-of-function because GRIP1/2 deficiency showed opposite phenotypes. Grip1/2 knockout mice exhibited increased sociability and impaired prepulse inhibition. These results support a role for GRIP in social behavior and implicate GRIP1 variants in modulating autistic phenotype.
Genetic factors involved in neuroplasticity have been implicated in major psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and substance abuse. Given its extended interactome, variants in the Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) gene could contribute to drug addiction and psychiatric diseases. Thus, we evaluated how dominant-negative mutant DISC1 influenced the neurobehavioral and molecular effects of methamphetamine (METH). Control and mutant DISC1 mice were studied before or after treatment with non-toxic escalating dose (ED) of METH. In naïve mice, we assessed METH-induced conditioned place preference (CPP), dopamine (DA) D2 receptor density and the basal and METH-induced activity of DISC1 partners, AKT and GSK-3? in the ventral striatum. In ED-treated mice, 4 weeks after METH treatment, we evaluated fear conditioning, depression-like responses in forced swim test, and the basal and METH-induced activity of AKT and GSK-3? in the ventral striatum. We found impairment in METH-induced CPP, decreased DA D2 receptor density and altered METH-induced phosphorylation of AKT and GSK-3? in naïve DISC1 female mice. The ED regimen was not neurotoxic as evidenced by unaltered brain regional monoamine tissue content. Mutant DISC1 significantly delayed METH ED-produced sensitization and affected drug-induced phosphorylation of AKT and GSK-3? in female mice. Our results suggest that perturbations in DISC1 functions in the ventral striatum may impact the molecular mechanisms of reward and sensitization, contributing to comorbidity between drug abuse and major mental diseases.
Notch signaling in the nervous system has been most studied in the context of cell fate specification. However, numerous studies have suggested that Notch also regulates neuronal morphology, synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. Here we show that Notch1 and its ligand Jagged1 are present at the synapse, and that Notch signaling in neurons occurs in response to synaptic activity. In addition, neuronal Notch signaling is positively regulated by Arc/Arg3.1, an activity-induced gene required for synaptic plasticity. In Arc/Arg3.1 mutant neurons, the proteolytic activation of Notch1 is disrupted both in vivo and in vitro. Conditional deletion of Notch1 in the postnatal hippocampus disrupted both long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), and led to deficits in learning and short-term memory. Thus, Notch signaling is dynamically regulated in response to neuronal activity, Arc/Arg3.1 is a context-dependent Notch regulator, and Notch1 is required for the synaptic plasticity that contributes to memory formation.
Pinworms are highly contagious parasites of laboratory rodents that often are treated with fenbendazole. To our knowledge, the effect of fenbendazole at therapeutic dosages on behavioral tests in mice has not been evaluated. Here we studied 6-wk-old male C57BL/6N mice. We compared the behavior of control mice (fed regular diet) with 3 groups of mice treated with dietary fenbendazole. Treatment groups were 4 wk of fenbendazole, 2 wk of fenbendazole followed by 2 wk of regular diet, and 2 wk of regular diet followed by 2 wk of fenbendazole. At the end of dietary treatment all groups were tested by open field for central, peripheral and vertical activity; elevated plus maze for anxiety; and rotarod for motor ability and then evaluated by clinical pathology and selected histopathology. Treated and control groups showed no differences in open field or elevated plus maze testing, histopathology, or clinical pathology. However mice treated for 4 wk with fenbendazole or 2 wk of fenbendazole followed by 2 wk regular diet stayed on the rotarod for shorter periods than did controls, and mice treated with 2 wk of regular diet followed by 2 wk fenbendazole showed a trend toward shorter rotarod times. In light of this study, we suggest that open field and elevated plus maze testing is unlikely to be affected by 4 wk fenbendazole treatment in male C57BL/6 mice; however, behavioral tests of motor ability such as rotarod tests may be affected during and for at least 2 wk after fenbendazole treatment.
Toxoplasma gondii reportedly manipulates rodent behaviour to increase transmission to its definitive feline host. We compared the effects of mouse infection by two Type II strains of T. gondii, Prugniaud (PRU) and ME49, on attraction to cat odour, locomotor activity, anxiety, sensorimotor gating, and spatial working and recognition memory 2 months post-infection (mpi). Attraction to cat odour was reassessed 7 mpi. At 2 mpi, mice infected with either strain exhibited significantly more attraction to cat odour than uninfected animals did, but only PRU-infected mice exhibited this behaviour 7 mpi. PRU-infected mice had significantly greater body weights and hyperactivity, while ME49-infected mice exhibited impaired spatial working memory. No differences in parasite antibody titres were seen between PRU- and ME49-infected mice. The present data suggest the effect of T. gondii infection on mouse behaviour is parasite strain-dependent.
Genetic alterations in alpha-synuclein cause autosomal dominant familial Parkinsonism and may contribute to sporadic Parkinsons disease (PD). Synphilin-1 is an alpha-synuclein-interacting protein, with implications in PD pathogenesis related to protein aggregation. Currently, the in vivo role of synphilin-1 in alpha-synuclein-linked pathogenesis is not fully understood. Using the mouse prion protein promoter, we generated synphilin-1 transgenic mice, which did not display PD-like phenotypes. However, synphilin-1/A53T alpha-synuclein double-transgenic mice survived longer than A53T alpha-synuclein single-transgenic mice. There were attenuated A53T alpha-synuclein-induced motor abnormalities and decreased astroglial reaction and neuronal degeneration in brains in double-transgenic mice. Overexpression of synphilin-1 decreased caspase-3 activation, increased beclin-1 and LC3 II expression and promoted formation of aggresome-like structures, suggesting that synphilin-1 alters multiple cellular pathways to protect against neuronal degeneration. These studies demonstrate that synphilin-1 can diminish the severity of alpha-synucleinopathy and play a neuroprotective role against A53T alpha-synuclein toxicity in vivo.
Gene-environment interactions (GEI) are involved in the pathogenesis of mental diseases. We evaluated interaction between mutant human disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (mhDISC1) and maternal immune activation implicated in schizophrenia and mood disorders.
Schizophrenia is a devastating disorder. Despite the advance in research techniques in the last couple of decades, the pathogenesis of the disorder still remains poorly understood. Given the lack of pathognomonic feature of the disease and difficulty to analyze molecular pathways in patients, animal models have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the disease. Recent progress in genetics has identified candidate susceptibility genes for schizophrenia, and generation of new genetic animal models has begun to provide valuable insights into the disease development. However, the complex neurodevelopmental and heterogeneous nature of schizophrenia still poses tremendous challenges for creating credible mouse models. In this review, we will discuss how current genetic systems of temporal and conditional regulation of gene expression have shed lights on the functions of the candidate genes in mouse models of schizophrenia. We also consider the strength and weaknesses of each model. We will argue that further development of more sophisticated genetic animal models is crucial for clarifying the unknowns of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a condition that impairs higher brain functions, some of which are specific to humans. After identification of susceptibility genes for schizophrenia, many efforts have been made to generate genetics-based models for the disease. It is under debate whether behavioral deficits observed in rodents are sufficient to characterize these models. Alternatively, anatomical and neuropathological changes identified in brains of patients with schizophrenia may be utilized as translatable characteristics between humans and rodents, which are important for validation of the models. Here, we overview such anatomical and neuropathological changes in humans: enlarged ventricles, dendritic changes in the pyramidal neurons, and alteration of specific subtypes of interneurons. In this review, we will overview such morphological changes in brains from patients with schizophrenia. Then, we will describe that some of these alterations are already recapitulated even in classic nongenetic models for schizophrenia. Finally, in comparison with the changes in patients and nongenetic models, we will discuss the anatomical and neuropathological manifestation in genetic models for schizophrenia.
A pregnant mouse model was used to compare the effect of IgG, administered E13-E18, from mothers of children with autistic disorder (MCAD), to controls (simple- and IgG-) on behavioral testing in offspring. Mice, exposed in-utero to MCAD-IgG, as adolescents, were more active during the first ten minutes of central field novelty testing and, as adults, displayed anxiety-like behavior on a component of the elevated plus maze and had a greater magnitude of startle following acoustic stimulation. On a social interaction paradigm, adult mice had alterations of sociability. Pilot studies of immune markers in MCAD IgG-exposed embryonic brains suggest evidence of cytokine and glial activation. These studies demonstrate that the transplacental passage of IgG from MCAD is capable of inducing long-term behavioral consequences.
The pathogenesis of schizophrenia and related mental illnesses likely involves multiple interactions between susceptibility genes of small effects and environmental factors. Gene-environment interactions occur across different stages of neurodevelopment to produce heterogeneous clinical and pathological manifestations of the disease. The main obstacle for mechanistic studies of gene-environment interplay has been the paucity of appropriate experimental systems for elucidating the molecular pathways that mediate gene-environment interactions relevant to schizophrenia. Recent advances in psychiatric genetics and a plethora of experimental data from animal studies allow us to suggest a new approach to gene-environment interactions in schizophrenia. We propose that animal models based on identified genetic mutations and measurable environment factors will help advance studies of the molecular mechanisms of gene-environment interplay.
Accumulating epidemiological evidences suggest that cannabis use during adolescence is a potential environmental risk for the development of psychosis, including schizophrenia. Consistently, clinical and preclinical studies, using pharmacological approaches and genetically engineered animals to target endocannabinoid signaling, reveal the multiple varieties of endocannabinoid system-mediated human and animal behaviors, including cognition and emotion. Recently, there has been substantial progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system for synaptic communications in the central nervous system. Furthermore, the impact of endocannabinoid signaling on diverse cellular processes during brain development has emerged. Thus, although schizophrenia has etiological complexities, including genetic heterogeneities and multiple environmental factors, it now becomes crucial to explore molecular pathways of convergence of genetic risk factors and endocannabinoid signaling, which may provide us with clues to find novel targets for therapeutic intervention. In this review, epidemiological, clinical, and pathological evidences on the role of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiologies of schizophrenia will be presented. We will also make a brief overview of the recent progress in understanding molecular mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system for brain development and function, with particular focus on cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R)-mediated cascade, the most well-characterized cannabinoid receptor. Lastly, we will discuss the potential of the endocannabinoid system in finding novel therapeutic targets for prevention and treatment of schizophrenia.
Gluten sensitivity may affect disease pathogenesis in a subset of individuals who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or autism. Exposure to Toxoplasma gondii is a known risk factor for the development of schizophrenia, presumably through a direct pathological effect of the parasite on brain and behavior. A co-association of antibodies to wheat gluten and to T. gondii in individuals with schizophrenia was recently uncovered, suggesting a coordinated gastrointestinal means by which T. gondii and dietary gluten might generate an immune response. Here, we evaluated the connection between these infectious- and food-based antigens in mouse models. BALB/c mice receiving a standard wheat-based rodent chow were infected with T. gondii via intraperitoneal, peroral and prenatal exposure methods. Significant increases in the levels of anti-gluten IgG were documented in all infected mice and in offspring from chronically infected dams compared to uninfected controls (repetitive measures ANOVAs, two-tailed t-tests, all p?0.00001). Activation of the complement system accompanied this immune response (p?0.002-0.00001). Perorally-infected females showed higher levels of anti-gluten IgG than males (p?0.009) indicating that T. gondii-generated gastrointestinal infection led to a significant anti-gluten immune response in a sex-dependent manner. These findings support a gastrointestinal basis by which two risk factors for schizophrenia, T. gondii infection and sensitivity to dietary gluten, might be connected to produce the immune activation that is becoming an increasingly recognized pathology of psychiatric disorders.
Half of all patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience cognitive impairment, for which there is no pharmacological treatment. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), we examined metabolic changes in the hippocampi of MS patients, compared the findings to performance on a neurocognitive test battery, and found that N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) concentration correlated with cognitive functioning. Specifically, MS patients with cognitive impairment had low hippocampal NAAG levels, whereas those with normal cognition demonstrated higher levels. We then evaluated glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII) inhibitors, known to increase brain NAAG levels, on cognition in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model of MS. Whereas GCPII inhibitor administration did not affect physical disabilities, it increased brain NAAG levels and dramatically improved learning and memory test performance compared with vehicle-treated EAE mice. These data suggest that NAAG is a unique biomarker for cognitive function in MS and that inhibition of GCPII might be a unique therapeutic strategy for recovery of cognitive function.
To distinguish active from inactive/chronic infection in Toxoplasma gondii-seropositive individuals, we have developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using specific peptides derived from Toxoplasma matrix antigen MAG1. We used this assay to measure matrix specific antibodies and pilot studies with infected mice established the validity of two peptides. The immune response against MAG1 occurs in about 12 days postinfection and displays a sex difference later on in mouse model, with males producing higher antibody titers than females. Serum samples from 22 patients with clinical toxoplasmosis and from 26 patients with serological evidence of past exposure to Toxoplasma (more than one year infection history) were analyzed. Both MAG1 peptides detected antibodies significant frequently and robustly from active stage than from the chronic stage of toxoplasmosis. The results indicate that both MAG1 peptides may be used as a tool to differentiate active from inactive infection. It also may be considered in the design of potential vaccines in humans.
Cognitive deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia. Epidemiological evidence indicates that microbial pathogens may contribute to cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia. Exposure to Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) has been associated with cognitive deficits in humans. However, the mechanisms whereby the parasite impacts cognition remain poorly understood. Animal models of T. gondii infection may aid in elucidating the underpinnings of cognitive dysfunction. Here, we (1) overview the literature on the association of T. gondii infection and cognitive impairment, (2) critically analyze current rodent models of cognitive deficits resulting from T. gondii infection, and (3) explore possible mechanisms whereby the parasite may affect cognitive function.
Genetic risk factors for major psychiatric disorders play key roles in neurodevelopment. Thus, exploring the molecular pathways of risk genes is important not only for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying brain development, but also to decipher how genetic disturbances affect brain maturation and functioning relevant to major mental illnesses. During the last decade, there has been significant progress in determining the mechanisms whereby risk genes impact brain development. Nonetheless, given that the majority of psychiatric disorders have etiological complexities encompassing multiple risk genes and environmental factors, the biological mechanisms of these diseases remain poorly understood. How can we move forward to our research for discovery of the biological markers and novel therapeutic targets for major mental disorders? Here we review recent progress in the neurobiology of disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), a major risk gene for major mental disorders, with a particular focus on its roles in cerebral cortex development. Convergent findings implicate DISC1 as part of a large, multi-step pathway implicated in various cellular processes and signal transduction. We discuss links between the DISC1 pathway and environmental factors, such as immune/inflammatory responses, which may suggest novel therapeutic targets. Existing treatments for major mental disorders are hampered by a limited number of pharmacological targets. Consequently, elucidation of the DISC1 pathway, and its association with neuropsychiatric disorders, may offer hope for novel treatment interventions.
Glutamate signaling has been implicated in the regulation of social behavior. AMPA-glutamate receptors are assembled from four subunits (GluA1-4) of mainly GluA1/2 and GluA2/3 tetramers that form ion channels of distinct functional properties. Mice lacking GluA1 showed a reduced anxiety and male aggression. To understand the role of GluA3 in modulating social behavior, we investigated GluA3-deficient mice (Gria3-/Y) on C57BL/6J background. Compared to wild type (WT) littermates (n=14), Gria3-/Y mice (n=13) showed an increase in isolation-induced male aggression (p=0.011) in home cage resident-intruder test; an increase in sociability (p=0.01), and increase in male-male social interactions in neutral arena (p=0.005); an increase in peripheral activities in open field test (p=0.037) with normal anxiety levels in elevated plus maze and light-dark box; and minor deficits in motor and balance function in accelerating rotarod test (p=0.016) with normal grip strength. Gria3-/Y mice showed no significant deficit in spatial memory function in Morris-water maze and Y-maze tests, and normal levels of testosterone. Increased dopamine concentrations in stratum (p=0.034) and reduced serotonin turnover in olfactory bulb (p=0.002) were documented in Gria3-/Y mice. These results support a role of GluA3 in the modulation of social behavior through brain dopamine and/or serotonin signaling and different AMPA receptor subunits affect social behavior through distinct mechanisms.
Huntingtons disease (HD) is caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the Huntingtin (Htt) protein. Proteolytic cleavage of Htt into toxic N-terminal fragments is believed to be a key aspect of pathogenesis. The best characterized putative cleavage event is at amino acid 586, hypothesized to be mediated by caspase 6. A corollary of the caspase 6 cleavage hypothesis is that the caspase 6 fragment should be a toxic fragment. To test this hypothesis, and further characterize the role of this fragment, we have generated transgenic mice expressing the N-terminal 586 aa of Htt with a polyglutamine repeat length of 82 (N586-82Q), under the control of the prion promoter. N586-82Q mice show a clear progressive rotarod deficit by 4 months of age, and are hyperactive starting at 5 months, later changing to hypoactivity before early mortality. MRI studies reveal widespread brain atrophy, and histologic studies demonstrate an abundance of Htt aggregates, mostly cytoplasmic, which are predominantly composed of the N586-82Q polypeptide. Smaller soluble N-terminal fragments appear to accumulate over time, peaking at 4 months, and are predominantly found in the nuclear fraction. This model appears to have a phenotype more severe than current full-length Htt models, but less severe than HD mouse models expressing shorter Htt fragments. These studies suggest that the caspase 6 fragment may be a transient intermediate, that fragment size is a factor contributing to the rate of disease progression, and that short soluble nuclear fragments may be most relevant to pathogenesis.
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