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J Neurosci. 2000 Jun 1;20(11):4325-36.

Toward understanding the biology of a complex phenotype: rat strain and substrain differences in the sensorimotor gating-disruptive effects of dopamine agonists.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0804, USA.


Sensorimotor gating, measured by prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle reflex, is reduced in schizophrenia patients and in rats treated with dopamine agonists. Strain differences in the sensitivity to the PPI-disruptive effects of dopamine agonists may provide insight into the genetic basis for human population differences in sensorimotor gating. We reported strain differences in the sensitivity to the PPI-disruptive effects of the D1/D2 agonist apomorphine in adult rats, with greater sensitivity in Harlan Sprague Dawley (SDH) versus Wistar (WH) rats. However, Kinney et al. (1999) recently reported opposite findings, using Bantin-Kingman Sprague Dawley (SDBK) and Wistar (WBK) rats; in fact, SDBK rats did not exhibit clear apomorphine-induced reductions in sensorimotor gating. These new findings of Kinney et al. (1999) directly conflict with over 15 years of results from our laboratories and challenge interpretations from a large body of literature. The present studies carefully assessed drug effects on sensorimotor gating in SD versus W strains, across rat suppliers (H vs BK). Significantly greater SDH than WH apomorphine sensitivity in PPI measures was observed in both adult and 18 d pups, confirming that these strain differences are both robust and innate. These strain differences in apomorphine sensitivity were not found in adult BK rats. Supplier differences in sensitivity (SDH > SDBK) were also evident in the PPI-disruptive effects of D1 but not D2-family agonists; PPI was clearly disrupted by quinpirole in both SDH and SDBK rats. These findings demonstrate robust, innate, neurochemically specific, and apparently heritable phenotypic differences in an animal model of sensorimotor gating deficits in human neuropsychiatric disorders.

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