Hippocampal neuroligin-2 overexpression leads to reduced aggression and inhibited novelty reactivity in rats
Disturbances of the excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance in the brain were recently suggested as potential factors underlying disorders like autism and schizophrenia resulting in associated behavioral alterations including changes in social and emotional behavior as well as abnormal aggression. Neuronal cell adhesion molecules (nCAMs) and mutations in these genes were found to be strongly implicated in the pathophysiology of these disorders. Neuroligin2 (nlgn2) is a postsynaptic cell adhesion molecule, which is predominantly expressed at inhibitory synapses and required for synapse specification and stabilization. Changes in the expression of nlgn2 were shown to result in alterations of social behavior as well as altered inhibitory synaptic transmission, hence modifying the E/I balance. In our study, we focused on the role of nlgn2 in the dorsal hippocampus in the regulation of emotional and social behaviors. To this purpose, we injected an AAV construct overexpressing nlgn2 in the hippocampus of rats and investigated the effects on behavior and on markers for the E/I ratio. We could show an increase in GAD65, a GABA-synthesizing protein in neuronal terminals, and furthermore, reduced exploration of novel stimuli and less offensive behavior. Our data suggest nlgn2 in the hippocampus to be strongly implicated in maintaining the E/I balance in the brain and thereby modulating social and emotional behavior.