Neuregulin 1 and schizophrenia: genetics, gene expression, and neurobiology.
Harrison PJ., Law AJ.
Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) is a leading schizophrenia susceptibility gene. The NRG1 locus on chromosome 8p shows linkage to the disorder, and genetic association has been found between schizophrenia and various non-coding polymorphisms and haplotypes, especially at the 5' end of the NRG1 gene, in many but not all case-control and family studies. NRG1 is a pleiotropic growth factor, important in nervous system development and functioning; roles include the modulation of neuronal migration, synaptogenesis, gliogenesis, neuron-glia communication, myelination, and neurotransmission. Understanding the neurobiology of NRG1 and its involvement in schizophrenia is challenged by the complexity of the gene, which gives rise to multiple functionally distinct isoforms, including six "types" of NRG1 defined by 5' exon usage. Type IV and type I NRG1 may be particularly relevant to schizophrenia, with initial data showing altered expression of these isoforms in the disorder or in association with NRG1 risk alleles. We review the structure and functions of NRG1, consider the evidence for and against it being a schizophrenia susceptibility gene, and discuss mechanisms that might underlie the contribution of NRG1 to disease pathophysiology.