The thalamic reticular nucleus in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: role of parvalbumin-expressing neuron networks and oxidative stress
Growing evidence points to a disruption of cortico-thalamo-cortical circuits in schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD). Clues for a specific involvement of the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) come from its unique neuronal characteristics and neural connectivity, allowing it to shape the thalamo-cortical information flow. A direct involvement of the TRN in SZ and BD has not been tested thus far. We used a combination of human postmortem and rodent studies to test the hypothesis that neurons expressing parvalbumin (PV neurons), a main TRN neuronal population, and associated Wisteria floribunda agglutinin-labeled perineuronal nets (WFA/PNNs) are altered in SZ and BD, and that these changes may occur early in the course of the disease as a consequence of oxidative stress. In both disease groups, marked decreases of PV neurons (immunoreactive for PV) and WFA/PNNs were observed in the TRN, with no effects of duration of illness or age at onset. Similarly, in transgenic mice with redox dysregulation, numbers of PV neurons and WFA/PNN+PV neurons were decreased in transgenic compared with wild-type mice; these changes were present at postnatal day (P) 20 for PV neurons and P40 for WFA/PNN+PV neurons, accompanied by alterations of their firing properties. These results show profound abnormalities of PV neurons in the TRN of subjects with SZ and BD, and offer support for the hypothesis that oxidative stress may play a key role in impacting TRN PV neurons at early stages of these disorders. We put forth that these TRN abnormalities may contribute to disruptions of sleep spindles, focused attention and emotion processing in these disorders.