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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Feb;16(1):163-75. doi: 10.1017/S1461145711001854. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Transmembrane domain Nrg1 mutant mice show altered susceptibility to the neurobehavioural actions of repeated THC exposure in adolescence.

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Schizophrenia Research Institute, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia.


Heavy cannabis abuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia. Adolescents appear particularly vulnerable to the development of psychosis-like symptoms after cannabis use. To test whether the schizophrenia candidate gene neuregulin 1 (NRG1) modulates the effects of cannabinoids in adolescence, we tested male adolescent heterozygous transmembrane domain Nrg1 mutant (Nrg1 TM HET) mice and wild type-like littermates (WT) for their neurobehavioural response to repeated Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, 10 mg/kg i.p. for 21 d starting on post-natal day 31). During treatment and 48 h after treatment withdrawal, we assessed several behavioural parameters relevant to schizophrenia. After behavioural testing we measured autoradiographic CB(1), 5-HT(2A) and NMDA receptor binding. The hyperlocomotor phenotype typical of Nrg1 mutants emerged after drug withdrawal and was more pronounced in vehicle than THC-treated Nrg1 TM HET mice. All mice were equally sensitive to THC-induced suppression of locomotion. However, mutant mice appeared protected against inhibiting effects of repeated THC on investigative social behaviours. Neither THC nor Nrg1 genotype altered prepulse inhibition. Repeated adolescent THC promoted differential effects on CB(1) and 5-HT(2A) receptor binding in the substantia nigra and insular cortex respectively, decreasing binding in WT while increasing it in Nrg1 TM HET mice. THC also selectively affected 5-HT(2A) receptor binding in several other regions in WT mice, whereas NMDA receptor binding was only affected in mutant mice. Overall, Nrg1 mutation does not appear to increase the induction of psychotomimetic symptoms by repeated adolescent THC exposure but may attenuate some of its actions on social behaviour and schizophrenia-relevant neurotransmitter receptor profiles.

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