Zebrafish Larvae Carrying a Splice Variant Mutation in cacna1d: A New Model for Schizophrenia-Like Behaviours?


Persons with certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CACNA1D gene (encoding voltage-gated calcium channel subunit alpha 1-D) have increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia and autism. The molecular consequences of SNPs on gene expression and protein function are not well understood. Thus, the use of animal models to determine genotype-phenotype correlations is critical to understanding disease pathogenesis. Here, we describe the behavioural changes in larval zebrafish carrying an essential splice site mutation (sa17298) in cacna1da. Heterozygous mutation resulted in 50% reduction of splice variants 201 and 202 (haploinsufficiency), while homozygosity increased transcript levels of variant 201 above wild type (WT; gain-of-function, GOF). Due to low homozygote viability, we focused primarily on performing the phenotypic analysis on heterozygotes. Indeed, cacna1dasa17298/WT larvae displayed hyperlocomotion—a behaviour characterised in zebrafish as a surrogate phenotype for epilepsy, anxiety or psychosis-like behaviour. Follow-up tests ruled out anxiety or seizures, however, as neither thigmotaxis defects nor epileptiform-like discharges in larval brains were observed. We therefore focused on testing for potential “psychosis-like” behaviour by assaying cacna1dasa17298/WT larval locomotor activity under constant light, during light-dark transition and in startle response to dark flashes. Furthermore, exposure of larvae to the antipsychotics, risperidone and haloperidol reversed cacna1da-induced hyperactivity to WT levels while valproate decreased but did not reverse hyperactivity. Together, these findings demonstrate that cacna1da haploinsufficiency induces behaviours in larval zebrafish analogous to those observed in rodent models of psychosis. Future studies on homozygous mutants will determine how cacna1d GOF alters behaviour in this context.


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