Schizophrenia-like GABAergic gene expression deficits in cerebellar Golgi cells from rats chronically exposed to low-dose phencyclidine.
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One of the most consistent findings in schizophrenia is the decreased expression of the GABA synthesizing enzymes GAD(67) and GAD(65) in specific interneuron populations. This dysfunction is observed in distributed brain regions including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. In an effort to understand the mechanisms for this GABA deficit, we investigated the effect of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist phencyclidine (PCP), which elicits schizophrenia-like symptoms in both humans and animal models, in a chronic, low-dose exposure paradigm. Adult rats were given PCP at a dose of 2.58 mg/kg/day i.p. for a month, after which levels of various GABAergic cell mRNAs and other neuromodulators were examined in the cerebellum by qRT-PCR. Administration of PCP decreased the expression of GAD(67), GAD(65), and the presynaptic GABA transporter GAT-1, and increased GABA(A) receptor subunits similar to those seen in patients with schizophrenia. Additionally, we found that the mRNA levels of two Golgi cell selective NMDAR subunits, NR2B and NR2D, were decreased in PCP-treated rats. Furthermore, we localized the deficits in GAD(67) expression solely to these interneurons. Slice electrophysiological studies showed that spontaneous firing of Golgi cells was reduced by acute exposure to low-dose PCP, suggesting that these neurons are particularly vulnerable to NMDA receptor antagonism. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that chronic exposure to low levels of PCP in rats mimics the GABAergic alterations reported in the cerebellum of patients with schizophrenia (Bullock et al., 2008. Am. J. Psychiatry 165, 1594-1603), further supporting the validity of this animal model.