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Mol Psychiatry. 2003 Jan;8(1):19-29.

Neonatal perturbation of neurotrophic signaling results in abnormal sensorimotor gating and social interaction in adults: implication for epidermal growth factor in cognitive development.

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Molecular Neurobiology, Brain Research Institute, Niigata University, Japan.

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  • Mol Psychiatry. 2003 May;8(5):565.


Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its structurally related proteins are implicated in the developmental regulation of various brain neurons, including midbrain dopaminergic neurons. There are EGF and EGF receptor abnormalities in both brain tissues and blood from schizophrenic patients. We administered EGF to neonatal rats to transiently perturb endogenous EGF receptor signaling and evaluated the neurobehavioral consequences. EGF-treatment-induced transient impairment in tyrosine hydroxylase expression. The animals grew normally, exhibited normal weight increase, glial growth, and gross brain structures, and later lost the tyrosine hydroxylase abnormality. During and after development, however, the rats began to display various behavioral abnormalities. Abnormal sensorimotor gating was apparent, as measured by deficits in prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle. Motor activity and social interaction scores of the EGF-treated animals were also impaired in adult rats, though not in earlier developmental stages. In parallel, there was a significant abnormality in dopamine metabolism in the brain stem of the adult animals. Gross learning ability appeared to be normal as measured by active avoidance. These behavioral alterations, which are often present in schizophrenic models, were ameliorated by subchronic treatment with clozapine. Although the molecular and/or physiologic background(s) of these behavioral abnormalities await further investigation, the results of the present experiment indicate that abnormal EGF receptor stimulation given during limited neonatal stages can result in severe and persistent cognitive/behavioral dysfunctions, which appear only in adulthood.

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