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Hum Mol Genet. 2010 Oct 1;19(19):3797-805. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq298. Epub 2010 Jul 15.

Reduced NMDAR1 expression in the Sp4 hypomorphic mouse may contribute to endophenotypes of human psychiatric disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0603, USA.


The reduced expression of the Sp4 gene in Sp4 hypomorphic mice resulted in subtle vacuolization in the hippocampus as well as deficits in sensorimotor gating and contextual memory, putative endophenotypes for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. In this study, we examined both spatial learning/memory and hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) of Sp4 hypomorphic mice. Impaired spatial learning/memory and markedly reduced LTP were found. To corroborate the functional studies, the expression of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptors was investigated with both western blot and immunohistochemical analyses. The reduced expression of the Sp4 gene decreased the level of the NR1 subunit of NMDA receptors in Sp4 hypomorphic mice. In human, SP4 gene was found to be deleted sporadically in schizophrenia patients, corroborating evidence that polymorphisms of human SP4 gene are associated with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. Impaired NMDA neurotransmission has been implicated in several human psychiatric disorders. As yet, it remains unclear how mutations of candidate susceptibility genes for these disorders may contribute to the disruption of NMDA neurotransmission. Sp4 hypomorphic mice could therefore serve as a genetic model to investigate impaired NMDA functions resulting from loss-of-function mutations of human SP4 gene in schizophrenia and/or other psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, aberrant expression of additional genes, besides NMDAR1, likely also contributes to the behavioral abnormalities in Sp4 hypomorphic mice. Thus, further investigation of the Sp4 pathway may provide novel insights in our understanding of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

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