Data generated largely by investigators of this Conte Center application provide compelling evidence that the alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit is a potential target for therapeutic intervention in schizophrenia. These data include the observations that the expression of the alpha7 subunit is reduced in the hippocampus of schizophrenics (Project 1), genetic variants in CHRNA7, the gene that encodes the alpha7 subunit, are associated with schizophrenia and auditory sensory gating deficits (Project 3) and auditory gating deficits are common among schizophrenics and the selective alpha7 agonist DMXB-A improves gating deficits (Project 1). In addition, the alpha7 selective agonist choline has been shown to improve auditory gating in human infants when administered perinatally (Project 2). Strikingly similar data have been obtained in mice. For example, we have shown in mice that 1) auditory gating deficits are correlated with reduced alpha7 receptor expression, 2) genetic variability in Chrna7 is linked to reduced expression of alpha7 receptors and auditory gating deficits, 3) the alpha7 receptor selective agonist DMXB-A improves gating deficits and, 4) perinatal choline improves auditory gating in a gating deficient mouse strain. In Project 4 we will take advantage of the similarities between human and mouse with respect to alpha7 receptors and auditory gating to address fundamental biological questions regarding the specific role of alpha7 receptors and Chrna7 in normal and deficient auditory gating. The specific questions that will be addressed in Project 4 are 1) what is the molecular mechanism(s) through which genetic variability in Chrna7 leads to reduced expression of alpha7 recptors and auditory gating deficits 2) what is the neurobiological mechanism by which reduced expression of alpha7 receptors might lead to gating deficits? and 3) what is the mechanism through which perinatal choline improves auditory gating? Project 4 supports the clinical research of Projects 1 and 2. It performs molecular genetics experiments in parallel with Project 3, and it supports the phenotyping of mice in Projects 5 and 6.

Public Health Relevance

New therapeutic strategies for schizophrenia are needed to improve cognitive dysfunction and negative symptoms and to prevent the development of psychosis. The Center investigates a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor as a new therapeutic target. Investigational results are used to design a new drug treatment for schizophrenia and a preventative nutrient intervention during infant development, both of which activate this receptor.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Specialized Center (P50)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-ERB-F)
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University of Colorado Denver
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Wilking, Jennifer A; Stitzel, Jerry A (2015) Natural genetic variability of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes in mice: Consequences and confounds. Neuropharmacology 96:205-12
Bates, R C; Stith, B J; Stevens, K E et al. (2014) Reduced CHRNA7 expression in C3H mice is associated with increases in hippocampal parvalbumin and glutamate decarboxylase-67 (GAD67) as well as altered levels of GABA(A) receptor subunits. Neuroscience 273:52-64
Stevens, Karen E; Choo, Kevin S; Stitzel, Jerry A et al. (2014) Long-term improvements in sensory inhibition with gestational choline supplementation linked to ?7 nicotinic receptors through studies in Chrna7 null mutation mice. Brain Res 1552:26-33
McClure-Begley, Tristan D; Grady, Sharon R; Marks, Michael J et al. (2014) Presynaptic GABAB autoreceptor regulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor mediated [(3)H]-GABA release from mouse synaptosomes. Biochem Pharmacol 91:87-96
Wildeboer-Andrud, Kristin M; Zheng, Lijun; Choo, Kevin S et al. (2014) Cotinine impacts sensory processing in DBA/2 mice through changes in the conditioning amplitude. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 117:144-50
Law, Amanda J (2014) Genetic mouse models of neuregulin 1: gene dosage effects, isoform-specific functions, and relevance to schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry 76:89-90
Tregellas, Jason R (2014) Neuroimaging biomarkers for early drug development in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry 76:111-9
Tregellas, Jason R; Smucny, Jason; Harris, Josette G et al. (2014) Intrinsic hippocampal activity as a biomarker for cognition and symptoms in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry 171:549-56
Paterson, Clare; Wang, Yanhong; Kleinman, Joel E et al. (2014) Effects of schizophrenia risk variation in the NRG1 gene on NRG1-IV splicing during fetal and early postnatal human neocortical development. Am J Psychiatry 171:979-89
Smucny, Jason; Stevens, Karen E; Tregellas, Jason R (2014) Acute administration of ?? tetrahydrocannabinol does not prevent enhancement of sensory gating by clozapine in DBA/2 mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 118:22-9

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