Influence of Schizophrenia-Associated Gene Egr3 on Sleep Behavior and Circadian Rhythms in Mice

Posted on 2018-10-15 - 12:00

Up to 80% of people meeting DSM-IV definitions for schizophrenia will exhibit difficulties with sleep, along with a breakdown in circadian entrainment and rhythmicity. The changes to the sleep and circadian systems in this population are thought to be interdependent, as evidenced by the frequent use of the combined term “sleep and circadian rhythm disruption” or “SCRD” to describe their occurrence. To understand links between sleep and circadian problems in the schizophrenia population, we analyzed the duration and rhythmicity of sleep behavior in mice lacking function of the immediate early gene early growth response 3 (Egr3). EGR3 has been associated with schizophrenia risk in humans, and Egr3-deficient (-/-) mice display various features of schizophrenia that are responsive to antipsychotic treatment. While Egr3-/- mice slept less than their wildtype (WT) littermates, they showed no evidence of circadian disorganization; in fact, circadian rhythms of activity were more robust in these mice compared with WT, as measured by time series analysis and the relative amplitude index of Van Someren’s suite of non-parametric circadian rhythm analyses. Differences in circadian robustness were maintained when the animals were transferred to several weeks of housing under constant darkness or constant light. Together, our results suggest that Egr3-/- mice retain control over the circadian timekeeping of sleep and wake, while showing impaired sleep. The findings are compatible with those from a surprising array of mouse models of schizophrenia and raise the possibility that SCRD may be 2 separate disorders in the schizophrenia population requiring different treatment strategies.


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