Perineuronal Nets in the Prefrontal Cortex of a Schizophrenia Mouse Model: Assessment of Neuroanatomical, Electrophysiological, and Behavioral Contributions

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Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder whose etiopathogenesis includes changes in cellular as well as extracellular structures. Perineuronal nets (PNNs) associated with parvalbumin-positive interneurons (PVs) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are dysregulated in schizophrenia. However, the postnatal development of these structures along with their associated neurons in the PFC is unexplored, as is their effects on behavior and neural activity. Therefore, in this study, we employed a DISC1 (Disruption in Schizophrenia) mutation mouse model of schizophrenia to assess these developmental changes and tested whether enzymatic digestion of PNNs in the PFC affected schizophrenia-like behaviors and neural activity. Developmentally, we found that the normal formation of PNNs, PVs, and colocalization of these two in the PFC, peaked around PND 22 (postnatal day 22). However, in DISC1, mutation animals from PND 0 to PND 60, both PNNs and PVs were significantly reduced. After enzymatic digestion of PNNs with chondroitinase in adult animals, the behavioral pattern of control animals mimicked that of DISC1 mutation animals, exhibiting reduced sociability, novelty and increased ultrasonic vocalizations, while there was very little change in other behaviors, such as working memory (Y-maze task involving medial temporal lobe) or depression-like behavior (tail-suspension test involving processing via the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis). Moreover, following chondroitinase treatment, electrophysiological recordings from the PFC exhibited a reduced proportion of spontaneous, high-frequency firing neurons, and an increased proportion of irregularly firing neurons, with increased spike count and reduced inter-spike intervals in control animals. These results support the proposition that the aberrant development of PNNs and PVs affects normal neural operations in the PFC and contributes to the emergence of some of the behavioral phenotypes observed in the DISC1 mutation model of schizophrenia.

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International Journal of Molecular Sciences

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