Schizophrenia-like phenotypes in mice with NMDA receptor ablation in intralaminar thalamic nucleus cells and gene therapy-based reversal in adults


In understanding the mechanism of schizophrenia pathogenesis, a significant finding is that drug abuse of phencyclidine or its analog ketamine causes symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Such drug effects are triggered even by administration at post-adolescent stages. Both drugs are N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonists, leading to a major hypothesis that glutamate hypofunction underlies schizophrenia pathogenesis. The precise region that depends on NMDAR function, however, is unclear. Here, we developed a mouse strain in which NMDARs in the intralaminar thalamic nuclei (ILN) were selectively disrupted. The mutant mice exhibited various schizophrenia-like phenotypes, including deficits in working memory, long-term spatial memory, and attention, as well as impulsivity, impaired prepulse inhibition, hyperlocomotion and hyperarousal. The electroencephalography analysis revealed that the mutant mice had a significantly reduced power in a wide range of frequencies including the alpha, beta and gamma bands, both during wake and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and a modest decrease of gamma power during non-REM sleep. Notably, restoring NMDARs in the adult ILN rescued some of the behavioral abnormalities. These findings suggest that NMDAR dysfunction in the ILN contributes to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia-related disorders. Furthermore, the reversal of inherent schizophrenia-like phenotypes in the adult mutant mice supports that ILN is a potential target site for a therapeutic strategy.

Translational Psychiatry, volume 7, page e1047 (2017)