Disruption to social dyadic interactions but not emotional/anxiety-related behaviour in mice with heterozygous 'knockout' of the schizophrenia risk gene neuregulin-1.
Clinical genetic studies have implicated neuregulin-1 [NRG1] as a leading susceptibility gene for schizophrenia. NRG1 is known to play a significant role in the developing brain, which is consistent with the prevailing neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia. Thus, the emotional and social phenotype of adult mice with heterozygous 'knockout' of transmembrane [TM]-domain NRG1 was examined further in both sexes. Emotional/anxiety-related behaviour was assessed using the elevated plus-maze and the light-dark test. Social behaviour was examined in terms of dyadic interactions between NRG1 mutants and an unfamiliar C57BL6 conspecific in a novel environment. There was no effect of NRG1 genotype on performance in either test of emotionality/anxiety. However, previous reports of hyperactivity in NRG1 mutants were confirmed in both paradigms. In the test of social interaction, aggressive following was increased in NRG1 mutants of both sexes, together with an increase in walkovers in female mutants. These findings elaborate the specificity of the NRG1 phenotype for the social rather than the emotional/anxiety-related domain. They indicate that NRG1 is involved in the regulation of reciprocal social interaction behaviour and thus suggest a putative role for NRG1 in a schizophrenia-related endophenotype.