ErbB4 deletion in noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus induces mania-like behavior via elevated catecholamines

Abstract

Dysfunction of the noradrenergic (NE) neurons is implicated in the pathogenesis of manic-depressive psychosis (MDP). ErbB4 is highly expressed in NE neurons, and its genetic variation has been linked to MDP; however, how ErbB4 regulates NE neuronal function and contributes to MDP pathogenesis is unclear. Here we find that conditional deletion of ErbB4 in locus coeruleus (LC) NE neurons increases neuronal spontaneous firing through NMDA receptor hyperfunction, and elevates catecholamines in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Furthermore, ErbB4-deficient mice present mania-like behaviors, including hyperactivity, reduced anxiety and depression, and increased sucrose preference. These behaviors are completely rescued by the anti-manic drug lithium or antagonists of catecholaminergic receptors. Our study demonstrates the critical role of ErbB4 signaling in regulating LC-NE neuronal function, reinforcing the view that dysfunction of the NE system may contribute to the pathogenesis of mania-associated disorder.