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Keywords:

  • behavioural abnormalities;
  • bHLH-PAS;
  • brain development;
  • developing neuroepithelium;
  • developmental abnormalities;
  • PSD-95

Abstract

Npas3 is a member of the bHLH-PAS superfamily of transcription factors that is expressed broadly in the developing neuroepithelium. To study the function of this gene, mice deficient in Npas3 were generated and characterized. Npas3–/– mice were growth-retarded and exhibited developmental brain abnormalities that included a reduction in size of the anterior hippocampus, hypoplasia of the corpus callosum and enlargement of the ventricles. A number of behavioural abnormalities were identified in Npas3–/– mice including locomotor hyperactivity, subtle gait defects, impairment of prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle, deficit in recognition memory and altered anxiety-related responses. Characterization of neurosignaling pathways using several pharmacological agents revealed dysfunctional glutamate, dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitter signaling. Consistent with these findings, we identified a significant alteration in cortical PSD-95 expression, a PDZ-containing protein that has been shown to be involved in postsynaptic signal transduction. Together, our observations indicate an important role for Npas3 in controlling normal brain development and neurosignaling pathways.