Parent-of-origin effects on schizophrenia-relevant behaviours oftype III neuregulin 1mutant mice
A robust, disease-relevant phenotype is paramount to the validity of genetic mouse models, which are an important tool in understanding complex diseases. Recent evidence from genome-wide association studies suggests the genetic contribution of parents to offspring is not equivalent. Despite this, few studies to date have examined the potential impact of parent genotype (i.e. origin of mutation) on the offspring of disease-relevant genetic mouse models. To elucidate the potential impact of the sex of the mutant parent on offspring phenotype, we characterized male and female offspring of an established schizophrenia mouse model, which had been generated using two different breeding schemes, in a range of disease-relevant behaviours. We compared heterozygous type III neuregulin 1 mutant (type III Nrg1+/−) and wild type-like control (WT) offspring from mutant father x WT mother pairings with offspring from mutant mother x WT father pairings. Offspring were tested in schizophrenia-relevant paradigms including the elevated plus maze (EPM), fear conditioning (FC), prepulse inhibition (PPI), social interaction (SI), and open field (OF). We found type III Nrg1+/− males from mutant fathers, but not mutant mothers, showed deficits in contextual fear-associated memory and exhibited increased social interaction, compared to their WT littermates. Type III Nrg1+/− females across breeding colonies only exhibited a subtle change to their acoustic startle response and sensorimotor gating. These results suggest a paternal-dependent transmission of genetically induced behavioural characteristics. Though the mechanisms governing this phenomenon are unclear, our results show that parental origin of mutation can alter the behavioural phenotype of genetic mouse models. Thus, researchers should carefully consider their breeding scheme when dealing with genetic mouse models of diseases such as schizophrenia.