Schizophrenia is a severe syndrome that affects about 1% of the world population. Since the mid-1950s, antipsychotics have been used to treat schizophrenia with preference for treating positive symptoms; however, their tolerance level is low, there are numerous side effects, and only some patients respond to the treatment. Antipsychotic medications that are more effective, better tolerated, and with fewer adverse effects are urgently needed. Given the accumulating evidence of the role filled by the ErbB signaling network in the biology of the dopamine, GABA, and glutamate systems, and in the etiology of schizophrenia, we hypothesized that the ErbB network is a candidate for development of a novel agent through which various symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders might be treated.
Herein, we studied, in mice, the capability of blocking the ErbB signaling, in comparison with the atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine, to counter schizophrenia-like behavior induced by acute and sub-chronic phencyclidine (PCP), and determined whether inhibition of the ErbB networks induced weight gain and affected social and exploratory behavior, and metabolic syndrome markers. We demonstrated that administration of the pan-ErbB inhibitor JNJ28871063 (JNJ) reduced the level of activity in the open field induced by an acute injection of PCP. Moreover, the ability of JNJ to attenuate the effect of PCP is as effective as clozapine. In addition and like clozapine, JNJ normalized social behavior impairment induced by sub-chronic PCP and stress. Adult JNJ-treated mice displayed normal sociability and exploratory behavior, and their serum cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels were lower than in the saline-treated mice. Sub-chronic treatment did not affect weight gain, glucose levels, and the activity of hepatic enzymes catalase and SOD.
These data suggest that treatment with JNJ attenuates abnormal behaviors induced by PCP, and has similar effects as the antipsychotic drug clozapine, with no adverse effects. Thus, the ErbB signaling can serve as a new starting point for non-dopaminergic-based drug development of schizophrenia.