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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 7694385, 15 pages
Research Article

Neuregulin-1 Regulates Cortical Inhibitory Neuron Dendrite and Synapse Growth through DISC1

1Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1
2Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1

Received 16 April 2016; Revised 5 July 2016; Accepted 5 September 2016

Academic Editor: Andreas M. Grabrucker

Copyright © 2016 Brianna K. Unda et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cortical inhibitory neurons play crucial roles in regulating excitatory synaptic networks and cognitive function and aberrant development of these cells have been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. The secreted neurotrophic factor Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) and its receptor ErbB4 are established regulators of inhibitory neuron connectivity, but the developmental signalling mechanisms regulating this process remain poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence that NRG1-ErbB4 signalling functions through the multifunctional scaffold protein, Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), to regulate the development of cortical inhibitory interneuron dendrite and synaptic growth. We found that NRG1 increases inhibitory neuron dendrite complexity and glutamatergic synapse formation onto inhibitory neurons and that this effect is blocked by expression of a dominant negative DISC1 mutant, or DISC1 knockdown. We also discovered that NRG1 treatment increases DISC1 expression and its localization to glutamatergic synapses being made onto cortical inhibitory neurons. Mechanistically, we determined that DISC1 binds ErbB4 within cortical inhibitory neurons. Collectively, these data suggest that a NRG1-ErbB4-DISC1 signalling pathway regulates the development of cortical inhibitory neuron dendrite and synaptic growth. Given that NRG1, ErbB4, and DISC1 are schizophrenia-linked genes, these findings shed light on how independent risk factors may signal in a common developmental pathway that contributes to neural connectivity defects and disease pathogenesis.