Ontogenic reduction of Aph-1b mRNA and γ-secretase activity in rats with a complex neurodevelopmental phenotype

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Selectively bred apomorphine susceptible (APO-SUS) rats display a complex behavioral phenotype remarkably similar to that of human neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia. We recently found that the APO-SUS rats have only one or two Aph-1b gene copies (I/I and II/II rats, respectively), whereas their phenotypic counterpart has three copies (III/III). Aph-1b is a component of the γ-secretase enzyme complex that is involved in multiple (neuro)developmental signaling pathways. Nevertheless, surprisingly little is known about γ-secretase expression during development. Here, we performed a longitudinal quantitative PCR study in embryos and the hippocampus of I/I, II/II and III/III rats, and found gene-dosage dependent differences in Aph-1b, but not Aph-1a, mRNA expression throughout pre- and postnatal development. On the basis of the developmental mRNA profiles, we assigned relative activities to the various Aph-1a and -1b gene promoters. Furthermore, in the three rat lines, we observed both tissue-specific and temporal alterations in γ-secretase cleavage activity towards one of its best-known substrates, the amyloid-β precursor protein APP. We conclude that the low levels of Aph-1b mRNA and γ-secretase activity observed in the I/I and II/II rats during the entire developmental period may well underlie their complex phenotype.

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